Canary Islands Route
The Canary Islands route has become increasingly active since 2018, echoing the situation in 2006. Despite being the deadliest route, it is also the busiest as migrants accept the dangers in order to evade militarisation on the Mediterranean routes.
Some depart from the beaches of Tan-Tan and Tarfaya, while others travel from Mauritania, Senegal or even Gambia in wooden boats. They are faced with a more dangerous ocean, where the risks of drifting off course and experiencing extreme weather conditions are far greater and the journey is much longer. The situation is exacerbated by the inadequate search and rescue resources mobilised to look for vessels in distress.
HISTORY OF THE ROUTE
Wooden boat crossings
Militarisation at the land borders in Ceuta and Melilla prompted more people to take the Canary Islands route than in previous years, setting a record for the numbers of dead and missing people on the route.
The Spanish State signed a series of agreements to facilitate the deportation of Senegalese and Mauritanian citizens, as well as to accelerate the process of border externalisation via official development assistance. Spanish police forces began to be seen at ports in Mauritania and Senegal.
In 2011, the Minister of Interior Fernández Díaz declared that the Atlantic route had been “shut down”. During this period, activity on the route gradually declined.
Revival of the route
Militarisation and high levels of violence on the Mediterranean routes prompted sub-Saharan African migrants to opt for the Canary Islands route in spite of the well-known dangers and high fatality rates.
Increase in deaths
The number of deaths rose year after year in an appalling upward trend that continued in the ensuing years. Meanwhile, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Morocco obliged many impoverished Moroccans to take this route.
In 2021, the number of victims rose on all routes but the situation was worse still on the Canary Islands route, where there were twice as many deaths. Migrant communities had once again fallen victim to the border war, serving as currency in the bilateral negotiations between the Spanish State and Morocco.
2022 - present
The deadliest route
Militarisation, deportation and violence against migrant communities continue to characterise this route, which has proven to be the deadliest of them all in recent years.