The NGO Caminando Fronteras has denounced this Wednesday the disappearance of 70 people, including 12 children, who were traveling aboard two boats that sailed from the coasts of Western Sahara and southern Morocco, as confirmed to the organization by some survivors and the relatives. Its spokesperson, Helena Maleno, has in turn denounced that the survivors of one of the two boats were beaten and tortured by the Moroccan authorities when they were returned to the port of El Aaiun (Western Sahara) by a fishing boat that rescued them.
According to the activist’s account, the first of the two boats left the vicinity of Tan-Tan (southern Morocco) on the 4th with 65 people on board, including 13 women and eight children under eight years of age. The organization was alerted by relatives. On the 5th, its occupants sent their position via WhatsApp message, after which the organization contacted the Civil Guard and Maritime Rescue. The emergency service then activated a search device. A Maritime Rescue spokeswoman confirmed the activation of the Sasemar 103 plane, which carried out inspection flights on February 5, 6, 7 and 8 over an area to the west of Tan-Tan.
Maritime Rescue, however, found no trace of the inflatable boat. “The survivors reported that at one point they were able to see the plane in the distance, without being seen,” Maleno explained. The boat would be rescued, according to the activist, five days later (on Friday) by a fishing boat that transferred the 31 people —a woman and a baby among them— who remained alive to the port of the town of Al Marsa, near El Aayoun. Maritime Rescue has confirmed this Wednesday that the Moroccan emergency center MRCC Rabat notified the Spanish agency of the rescue by a fishing boat, although the survivors were estimated at 42. Sources from the Government Delegation in the Canary Islands have refused to confirm this story.
We confirm with pain the death of seventy people in two shipwrecks on the Canary Islands route. Among the victims twelve creatures that did not exceed eight years of age. ??
— Helena Maleno Garzon (@HelenaMaleno) February 14, 2023
The second vessel sank on Friday shortly after setting sail from the coast of Boujdour, south of El Aaiun, with 56 occupants on board, according to Caminando Fronteras, including 21 women and five children. The Moroccan rescue teams were able to save 20 people, explains Maleno, which means that 36 people died in this boat, including five children. The Moroccan government has not yet officially ruled on what happened, but sources from the local authorities told Efe that they only documented four corpses and one survivor in recent days in maritime incidents.
From January 1 to February 14, a total of 2,538 people have arrived irregularly in Spain, which means 3,814 fewer people and a decrease of 60% compared to the same period in 2022, according to the report published by the Ministry of Inside. A similar trend can be seen in arrivals to the Canary Islands, with a decrease in irregular entries of 66.3% compared to 2022. A report by Caminando Fronteras itself figures, for its part, at 11,286 people in the last five years the number of people killed trying to cross the western Euro-African border.
Despite these figures, the Government of the Canary Islands showed on Thursday its concern about the rebound in small boats that has taken place since the beginning of February. The spokesman for the regional Executive, Julio Perez, explained at the press conference after the Governing Council. Perez explained that although the lower figures have to do with relations with Morocco, the increase, on the contrary, is due more to the weather or the organization of the mafias that mount these expeditions.