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160 dead or missing in Atlantic migrant crossing

At least 89 people have died and as many as 72 are still missing following the latest deadly shipwreck on the Atlantic Ocean migration route between the west coast of Africa and the Spanish Canary Islands.

The boat – a traditional fishing vessel – set sail from near the Senegal-Gambia border and capsized on 1 July off the coast of Mauritania. The Mauritanian Coast Guard rescued nine survivors on 4 July. 

An increasing number of people have been setting out by boat from West Africa for the Canary Islands in recent years, despite it being considered perhaps the deadliest migration route in the world. In 2023, nearly 40,000 asylum seekers and migrants reached the Canary Islands. So far in 2024, nearly 20,000 people have made the journey – a 170% increase compared to the same time period last year.

More than 5,000 people – a staggering number – died attempting the crossing in just the first five months of this year, according to a Spanish NGO. Rough seas, the length of travel, and strong currents make the route particularly treacherous. Boats that are swept off course are sometimes discovered as far away as the Caribbean and off the coast of Brazil.  

For more on what is driving people to risk their lives on this deadly route, read:

This is a long shot image. At the centre we see a docked bright orange ship. Next to it is a boat with groups of people on it. This image depicts the arrival of the patera at the dock of La Restinga, on October 21, 2023, in El Hierro, Canary Islands (Spain).

Deaths on migration route to Canary Islands soar to 1,000 a month

Mauritania has overtaken Senegal as the main departure point for those taking on the perilous Atlantic crossing.

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