The island of El Hierro, almost unprecedented as a destination for boats between 2020 and 2022, has become the favorite destination of the canoes that sail from Senegal, much older and with more people on board. This Tuesday, the westernmost island of the archipelago – and the second least inhabited, with 11,423 inhabitants – has received three canoes with a total of almost 500 people on board. One of them was carrying 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 Canarian route was opened in 1994, according to calculations by the Efe agency and the Red Cross.
This cayuco, which measures 28 to 30 meters in length and about four meters wide, was sighted by the Salvamar Adhara approximately one kilometer from the coast. Painted in multiple colors, it transported mainly young men, but also a dozen women and two minors, including a young child, according to the first counts to which the Efe agency has accessed. The passengers traveled arranged in rows of eight to ten people huddled together, and several of them were sitting in the bow with their feet overboard, with almost no possibility of changing position.
October is a month traditionally conducive to sailing between Africa and the Canary Islands. So far on Tuesday, 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 sank about 78 kilometers from Lanzarote, and seven of its occupants disappeared.
Between January 1 and September 30, 14,976 people arrived alive on the islands in 270 boats, according to official data from the Ministry of the Interior. This figure is 19.8% more than in 2022 and 12.4% more than in 2021, the year that became the second busiest year on the Canarian route in its history.
The statistics have led the president of the Canary Islands, Fernando Clavijo, to protest again on Tuesday for what he considers "laziness" of the central government in the face of the increase in arrivals. The president, of Coalición Canaria, 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 demand again a single command in matters of immigration and that "begin to offer solutions".
The Canarian route was opened on August 28, 1994, the day two Saharawis flying a flag of the Polisario Front arrived aboard a boat to Fuerteventura and, without knowing it, began a route that, according to Efe calculations, has been used by about 180,000 people since then.
In 2005, cayucos, flat-bottomed canoes built from trees, began to be used. The following year, 2006, there was the so-called crisis of the cayucos, with the maximum number of arrivals in the Canary Islands in a year: 31,678 people (double the number registered so far in 2023). To that time the records of boats with more than 200 people on board go back, 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.
Subscribe to continue reading
Read without limits
I'm already a subscriber