MADRID (Reuters) – Spanish maritime rescue that dispatched a plane and a ship to search for a fishing vessel from Senegal with about 200 migrants on board and missing for nearly two weeks, on Monday discovered what appears to be a different migrant boat.
The reconnaissance plane spotted a boat 71 miles (114 km) to the south of the island of Gran Canaria, which the rescue service initially thought could have been the missing boat.
But its spokesperson later said the rescue vessel found 86 people on board and only a further investigation would show where it had sailed from. The boat was being towed to Gran Canaria.
Migrant aid group Walking Borders said on Sunday that the fishing vessel with about 200 people and another two boats – one carrying about 65 people and the other with between 50 and 60 on board – had been missing for about two weeks since they left Senegal to try to reach Spain.
Helena Maleno of Walking Borders said on Monday that the families of the at least 300 migrants on board the three boats had not received any new information about their whereabouts.
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The condition of the migrants was unknown.
Maleno’s organisation had contacted authorities in Senegal, Mauritania, Morocco and Spain, urging them to search for the missing boats.
“There need to be more resources devoted to the search,” she said.
All three boats left in late June from the village of Kafountine in Senegal’s region of Cassamance, home to a decades-long insurgency and located some 1,700 km from Spain’s Canary Islands. Weather conditions in the Atlantic were bad for such a voyage, Maleno said.
The Atlantic migration route, typically used by migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, is one of the world’s deadliest. At least 559 people died in 2022 in attempts to reach the Canary Islands, according to the U.N.’s International Organisation for Migration.
Data from the European Border and Coast Guard Agency Frontex shows 1,135 migrants originating from Senegal had arrived in the Canaries so far this year.