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4,400 migrants lost at sea bound for Spain in 2021, double previous year

The group, Walking Borders, or Caminando Fronteras,
blamed increasingly dangerous routes, inferior boats and the fear of some
vessels to help migrants at sea for the surge in deaths. According to Spanish
official statistics, 39,000 undocumented migrants successfully reached Spain by
sea or land last year, a similar figure to the previous year.

Walking Borders said more than 90% of those missing or
dead were lost on 124 shipwrecks en route to Spain’s Canary Islands in the
Atlantic Ocean as of Dec. 20. Since 2020, the islands off the coast of Africa
have become the main destination for migrants trying to reach Spain, with a
much smaller share trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to the Spanish
mainland.

Helena Maleno, founder of Caminando Fronteras, told Reuters
the group gathered its data from hotlines set up for migrants on vessels in
trouble to call for help, and from family members seeking information.

The group investigates the fate of each boat. It
presumes those missing at sea for at least a month to be dead. Close to 95% of
the figures represent people who are missing.

The United Nations International Organization for
Migration (IOM) counted 955 people who died or went missing in 2021 trying to reach
the Canary Islands by Dec 22, the highest figure it documented since 2014.

The IOM obtains its data from officials records, media
reports and other groups including Walking Borders, but says its numbers are
conservative and the real toll is probably higher.

Spain does not keep figures for people who die trying
to reach its shores, and an Interior Ministry spokesperson declined to comment
on the latest figures.

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Caption Migrants wait to disembark from a Spanish
coast guard vessel, in the port of Arguineguin, in the island of Gran Canaria,
Spain, November 23, 2021. REUTERS

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