Nearly 1,000 migrants died trying to reach Spain in first half of 2023

( Diego Radames – Anadolu Agency )

A total of 951 migrants died trying to reach Spain in the first half of 2023, according to a report published Thursday by the Walking Borders organization.

The victims came from 14 countries — from Morroco to Congo, Syria to Sudan to Sri Lanka, according to the report.

Most perished during the Atlantic voyage to the Canary Islands. An estimated 778 died on the route, including all passengers on 19 vessels, making it one of the deadliest migration routes in the world.

Included in the figure are an estimated 36 people who died in June in the waters between Spain and Morocco. Their rubber dinghy had been sending messages of help for more than 10 hours before help arrived, according to Walking Borders, even though a Spanish coast guard ship was less than one hour away.

Walking Borders made an official request Thursday for a criminal investigation into the inaction around the tragedy.

“We spent hours waiting, begging, we called everywhere, Spain’s coast guards, the Moroccan navy, we sent positions, but no one came. The sea is very big and very scary,” a victim identified as F.B. was quoted in the report. “The children were crying a lot, we had no water … I saw them dying in front of me, they were falling into the sea.” 

“When the rescue arrived, it was too late. The Moroccans threw us in the desert, I had burns and they got infected, thank God I am alive. We only have God left when everyone wants to kill us,” said F.B.

Although Spain’s Interior Ministry has reported that arrivals to the Canary Islands decreased around 20% compared to last year, Walking Borders said the number of deaths on the same route has remained the same.

“The politics of death have been in place for a long time on the border. But we also detected an increase in impunity in the face of rising mortality rates, which leaves victims and their families without access to reparations and justice,” the head of Walking Borders, Helena Maleno Garzon, said in a statement.

Besides those who perished trying to reach the Canary Islands, 50 died trying to cross the Gibraltar Straight, and 123 died while crossing the Mediterranean Sea from Morocco or Algeria.

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