Spain possibly locates missing boat carrying 200 migrants, sends help

A Spanish reconnaissance plane has found what could be a fishing vessel from Senegal with about 200 migrants on board that has been missing for nearly two weeks, the maritime rescue service said on Monday.

“The plane has found a large boat with some 200 people on board, 71 miles to the south of Gran Canaria,” a spokesperson for the service told Reuters, adding it was “possible” that it was the missing vessel.

A rescue ship was on its way and would take about two-and-a-half hours to reach the location, the spokesperson added.

Migrant aid group Walking Borders said on Sunday that the fishing vessel 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.

The Spanish rescue service said that although there was only one official alert in place for the boat with 200 passengers, its plane was on the lookout for any vessels in distress.

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.

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… A plane that flies for four hours isn’t enough” for such an operation, she added.

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 (1,057 miles) 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.

Source: Reuters