At least 300 migrants traveling from Senegal to Spain go missing

The Atlantic migration route is one of the deadliest in the world, with nearly 800 people dying or going missing in the first half of this year.
Posted at 8:16 AM, Jul 10, 2023

At least 300 people traveling in three boats from Senegal to Spain are missing, a Spanish aid group said Monday.

Two boats departed from Mbour city on June 23 carrying about 100 people and a third left the southern town of Kafountine four days later with approximately 200 people, said Helena Maleno Garzon, coordinator for Walking Borders (Caminando Fronteras).

"The most important thing is to find those people. There are many people missing in the sea, this isn't normal, we need more planes to look for them," she told The Associated Press.

There has been no contact with the boats since their departure, she said. The Spanish and Senegalese authorities didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Atlantic migration route is one of the deadliest in the world, with nearly 800 people dying or going missing in the first half of this year, according to Walking Borders.

In recent years the Canary Islands has become one of the main destinations for people trying to reach Spain, with a peak of more than 23,000 migrants arriving in 2020, according to Spain's interior ministry. In the first six months of this year, more than 7,000 migrants and refugees reached the Canaries.

Boats that go missing often aren't documented. Some are never found or are discovered across the world years later. Earlier this year, an AP investigation found that in 2021 at least seven migrant boats from northwest Africa, likely trying to reach the Canary Islands, drifted to the Caribbean and Brazil.

The boats mainly travel from Morocco, Western Sahara and Mauritania, with fewer coming from Senegal, the Spanish aid group said. However, since June at least 19 boats from Senegal have arrived in the Canary Islands, it said.

Survivors of a capsized boat arrive in Greece.

Greece: 79 migrants dead, dozens feared missing after boat capsizes

Mediterranean smugglers are increasingly taking larger boats into international waters off the Greek mainland to try to avoid coast guard patrols.


Many factors such as ailing economies, a lack of jobs, extremist violence, political unrest and the impact of climate change push migrants to risk their lives on overcrowded boats to reach the Canaries. Last month in Senegal, at least 23 people were killed during weeks of protests between opposition supporters and police.

The missing boats follow one of the deadliest migrant drownings last month, in which more than 500 people are presumed dead off the coast of Greece. Criticism has mounted over Europe's years-long failure to prevent such tragedies.

Maleno of the Spanish aid group said she has been in contact with the Moroccan, Spanish and Mauritanian marines and that more needs to be done to look for the missing boats.

"Imagine if there (were) 300 American people missing at sea. What (would) happen? Many planes will look for them," she said.