Up to 47 people including three minors are missing and suspected to have died after their boat encountered engine trouble on the passage from Western Sahara to Spain’s Canary Islands, the United Nations migration agency said on Tuesday.
A boat carrying 54 people left Laayoune in Western Sahara around Aug. 3 before the engine failed, according to the testimony of seven survivors who were picked up by the Mauritanian coastguard.
“We are working with the Mauritanian authorities to search for the bodies of those migrants who died en route to the Canary Islands,” said Boubacar Seybou, an IOM spokesman.
Fuerteventura, the closest of the Canary Islands to the African coast, lies around 100 km (60 miles) away from Laayoune.
From Jan. 1 to July 31, at least 7,531 people reached Spain’s Canary Islands from Western Africa, according to Spanish government figures, a 136% rise compared with the same period in 2020.