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Child migrant dies in boat off Spain’s Canary Islands

Child migrant dies in boat off Spain’s Canary Islands
The migrants were thought to have travelled from Western Sahara

A child was found dead among dozens of migrants rescued from a boat drifting in the Atlantic Ocean, emergency services in the Canary Islands have confirmed.

Two adults and six children were among those found on the boat 185 kilometres southwest of Gran Canaria. They were evacuated from the boat on Sunday for emergency medical care but one child did not survive.

Approximately 40 more people were brought to land by Spain’s Maritime Rescue Service and disembarked in the port of Arguineguin, the service confirmed to the Associated Press on Monday.

Red Cross official Jose Antonio Rodriguez said the rescued migrants departed from Dakhla, in Western Sahara, just off north Africa eight days ago.

Arrivals to the Canary Islands have soared with 14,720 people making the dangerous trip from January to mid-October this year – an 83 per cent increase from 2020, according to Spain’s Interior Ministry.

The crossing is extremely dangerous with nearly 900 people dying or going missing attempting to make the journey via boat, according to the United Nations migration agency. Experts say many boats disappear in the Atlantic without a trace in what are known as invisible shipwrecks.

Spanish migrant rights group Walking Borders, for example, reported that it counted nearly 2,000 deaths on the Atlantic route during the first six months of the year.

Conflicts, poverty and other factors exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and climate change have led Europe-bound travellers to board boats along the west African coast from Morocco all the way south to The Gambia.

Increasing border controls and interceptions in the Mediterranean Sea between north Africa and southern Europe have also caused people smugglers to adapt by launching more boats on the Atlantic Ocean.

Earlier this year, authorities opened several camps for migrants in the Canaries. They were devised as a more stable solution after the 2020 influx, when hundreds of people stayed for weeks at a crammed, hastily improvised dockside camp, where conditions were harshly criticised by rights groups.