The island of El Hierro, almost unprecedented as a boat destination between 2020 and 2022, has become the favorite destination for the canoes that set sail from Senegal, much larger and with more people on board. This Tuesday, the westernmost island of the archipelago – and the second least inhabited, with 11,423 inhabitants – received three cayucos with a total of almost 500 people on board. One of them carried between 270 and 280 people on board, including women and children. If this figure is confirmed, it would be the boat with the most passengers since the Canary Islands route was opened in 1994, according to calculations by the Efe agency and the Red Cross.
The cayuco in which the migrants traveled. Maritime Rescue (EFE/Maritime Rescue)
This canoe, which measures 28 to 30 meters in length and about four meters in width, was sighted by the Salvamar Adhara approximately one kilometer from the coast. Painted in multiple colors, it transported mainly young men, although it also carried a dozen women and two minors, including a young child, according to the first counts accessed by the Efe agency. The passengers were arranged in rows of eight to ten people packed together, and several of them were sitting in the bow with their feet overboard, with almost no possibility of changing their position.
October is a traditionally favorable month for sailing between Africa and the Canary Islands. So far this Tuesday alone, seven boats have arrived in El Hierro and Fuerteventura, carrying a total of 620 people. This Monday another 380 people arrived at different parts of the archipelago. One of these boats capsized about 78 kilometers from Lanzarote, and seven of its occupants disappeared.
One of the cayucos where the 271 immigrants were traveling, arriving this afternoon at the port of La Restinga, on the island of El Hierro. Gelmert Finol (EFE)
Between January 1 and September 30, 14,976 people have arrived alive on the islands in 270 boats, according to official data from the Ministry of the Interior. This figure represents 19.8% more than in 2022 and 12.4% more than in 2021, the year that became the second busiest on the Canary Islands route in its history.
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The statistics have led the president of the Canary Islands, Fernando Clavijo, to protest again this Tuesday against what he considers the central government’s “laziness” in the face of the increase in arrivals. The president, from the Canarian Coalition, has assured in statements to the media in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria that he will take advantage of his meeting this week with the third vice president of the Government, Teresa Ribera, to once again demand a single command in matters of immigration and that “they begin to offer solutions.”
The Canary Islands route was opened on August 28, 1994, the day that two Sahrawis flying a flag of the Polisario Front arrived aboard a boat to Fuerteventura and, unknowingly, began a route that, according to Efe’s calculations , have been used by nearly 180,000 people since then.
In 2005, cayucos, flat-bottomed canoes built from trees, began to be used. The following year, 2006, the so-called cayuco crisis occurred, with the maximum number of arrivals to the Canary Islands in one year: 31,678 people (double those registered so far in 2023). Records of boats with more than 200 people on board date back to that time, such as the one that arrived in the south of Tenerife on September 30, 2008, with 229 occupants, which is among the largest on the route.
The health services attend to one of the immigrants who have arrived in El Hierro, this Tuesday. Gelmert Finol (EFE)
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