Spanish Migrant Routes Saw Doubling of Deaths In 2021, Says NGO

Vessels accumulate at a 'boat cemetery' in Arinaga on the Spanish Canary island of Gran Canaria on November 18, 2021. - For worried relatives, trying to find information about people without papers on a boat with no passenger list that got lost on the notoriously dangerous route to Spain's Atlantic …
LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images

According to figures produced by a human rights group, there were at last 4,400 deaths along the migrant routes to Spain in 2021, a figure double of 2020 and higher than United Nations estimates.

The Spanish NGO Caminando Fronteras (Walking Borders) has claimed that a total of 4,404 migrants have died trying to reach Spanish territory in 2021, with the vast majority dying while trying to reach the Spanish Canary Islands by sea from Africa.

The NGO also stated that at least 628 women and 205 children were among those who have died on the routes to reach Spain and that the death toll is the highest the group has recorded since it began examining the data in 2015, broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports. The NGO says the 20201 figure represents a more-than-doubling from 2020, when their observatory claimed 2,170 deaths.

The figures coincide with a huge increase of attempts to reach Spain by travelling to the Canary Islands in the Atlantic ocean off the coast of Africa, which is by far the most dangerous route for migrants to take to Spanish territory.

Of the over 40,000 migrants who arrived between January and the end of December of last year, the Canary Islands saw over 22,000 migrant arrivals, while the Spanish mainland saw 4,000 arrivals and the north African enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta saw under 3,000.

According to Caminando Fronteras, the group determined the death toll by looking at data from distress calls and recorded any boat missing at sea for over a month as a fatal incident. A similar method is used by the Missing Migrant Project, which counts long-term missing and confirmed dead in its annual assessment of fatality in the English Channel migrant crisis crossing route. Using that method the Project says 44 died in the English Channel in 2021, opposed to the official figure of 29.

The Spanish statistics are far higher than those recorded by the United Nations International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which has claimed less than a thousand people have died trying to reach Spain in 2021.

The Spanish migrant routes are not the only routes to see many deaths in 2021. The central Mediterranean route to Italy saw at least 1,500 deaths in 2021 according to IOM spokesperson Safa Msehli, a number far higher than IOM figures for the Spanish routes.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)



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