MADRID (AP) — More than 1,600 migrants have either been rescued at sea or reached Spain’s Canary Islands in small boats over the weekend, emergency services for the archipelago said Sunday.
The body of one person who had died during the perilous journey was recovered by rescuers in waters near the island of El Hierro, the Canary Islands emergency services said. Another person was airlifted by helicopter to a local hospital for an unspecified health problem.
The route to the islands from western Africa, which at its closest point in Morocco is 100 kilometers (about 60 miles) away, has seen an increase in traffic this year after the European Union funded Morocco in 2019 to stop migrants from reaching southern Spain via the Mediterranean Sea.
The Canary Islands have received over 11,000 migrants so far this year, and the Atlantic route has become the deadliest seaborne path to reach Europe with more than 600 confirmed dead of missing people, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency.
Arrivals in 2020 are still low compared to the 30,000 migrants who reached the islands in 2006. But they are at their highest in over a decade since Spain stemmed the flow of sea arrivals to just a few hundred a year through deals with West African countries.
In Italy, 238 migrants who reached the tiny island of Lampedusa were in mandatory preventative quarantine Sunday aboard an unused passenger ferry which was pressed into service as part of the country’s measures against the spread of COVID-19. The migrants are part of around 2,200 who arrived on Lampedusa island over the past week, Italian news reports said.
While earlier in the pandemic some clusters of infections were found in migrant residences, in past weeks most of the new cases in a resurgence of COVID-19 infections in Italy have been traced to transmission within Italian households, according to health experts.