Since 2018, six people die every day trying to reach Spain: NGO

More than 11,200 migrants have died trying to reach Spain in the past five years, equating to a daily average of six people, Spanish NGO Caminando Fronteras said Monday.

Since 2018, six people die every day trying to reach Spain: NGO
A child migrant keeps warm in Red Cross blanket after arriving aboard a coast guard boat at Algeciras' harbour. (Photo by JORGE GUERRERO / AFP)

In a report, the organisation — which alerts the authorities to migrant boats in trouble at sea and helps families searching for loved ones — said 11,286 people had died between January 2018 and November 30, 2022.

The deaths mainly occurred as they tried to reach Spain by sea but also included those who died trying to get into its two North African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla.

More than two-thirds — or 7,692 people — died en route from the African coast to the Canary Islands in the Atlantic, which is an extremely dangerous route because of its strong currents with migrants packed into ramshackle boats which are far from seaworthy.

At its shortest, the route from the Moroccan coast is around 100 kilometres (60 miles), but migrants often come from as far as Mauritania which is more than 1,000 kilometres as the crow flies.

Crossings there began surging in late 2019 after increased patrols in the Mediterranean dramatically reduced migrant numbers.

“This report provides an analysis over time which lets us see the shift towards increasingly dangerous migration routes,” Helena Maleno, head of Caminando Fronteras, said on presenting the report in Barcelona.

The second most dangerous route is between Algeria and Spain where 1,526 people died over the same period.

Others died while trying to cross into Ceuta and Melilla, which have Europe’s only land border with Africa, making them a magnet for migrants desperate to escape grinding poverty and hunger.

Figures show 47 people died at those borders over the past five years, the NGO said.

In June, dozens died trying to cross into Melilla, with Morocco counting 23 but Amnesty International and independent experts giving a figure of 37 in the worst recorded toll in years.

40 percent of deaths in 2021

The worst year for migrant deaths was 2021, when 4,639 people lost their lives — representing more than 40 percent of the overall toll over the five-year period.

Although the figures for this year do not include December, the number of deaths in 2022 is considerably lower, standing at 2,154.

Among the victims, who either drowned, died en route or went missing at sea, were 1,272 women and 377 children.

Most of the bodies are never recovered, with the dead swallowed up by the ocean, and the NGO denounced the lack of international help for families desperately looking for missing loved ones.

Spain is one of the main gateways for migrants to reach Europe and so far this year, some 30,000 have managed to reach its territory.

The vast majority is by sea, with 27,789 arrivals so far this year, the latest interior ministry figures show, a significant drop from a year earlier when arrivals stood at 37,241.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Ceuta border between Spain and Morocco closed amid migrant crossing

After police detected a group of around 200 migrants approaching the border fence in Ceuta, it has been closed to traffic and access between Spain and Morocco is now only permitted on foot.

Ceuta border between Spain and Morocco closed amid migrant crossing

Spain’s Guardia Civil and National Police have closed the border between Spain and Morocco in Ceuta, one of Spain’s autonomous cities in North Africa, after a large group of migrants were detected approaching the border fence. 

READ ALSO: Why are Ceuta and Melilla Spanish?

The border, which along with Melilla, Spain’s other autonomous city in Africa, is the only land border between Africa and Europe and was closed to vehicles early Friday morning after security forces spotted a group of what the Spanish press describes as “about 200 migrants of sub-Saharan origin” attempting to approach the fence. The group was then contained by the Moroccan authorities.

According to police sources, the attempted fence jump was “through the middle area” of the 8.2-kilometer-long fence that runs from the Tarajal border all the way to the waters of the Strait of Gibraltar, in Benzú, which in recent years has been an entry point for migrants and refugees trying to enter Europe.

In the first three months of 2023, 199 people entered Ceuta irregularly by land (3.9 percent less than the same period in 2022), and another 16 entered by sea (half as much as in 2022), according to figures from Spain’s Interior Ministry.


In recent years both Ceuta and Melilla have seen mass border crossings by groups of sub-saharan migrants, and the Spanish security forces have faced criticism for its approach. In June 2022, at least 23 migrants died (though some NGOs put the figure at 37) trying to get over the fence in Melilla, a tragedy Amnesty International accused both Madrid and Rabat of “contributing” to by the use of “excessive use of force.”

The Red Cross’s Immediate Emergency Response Team (ERIE) has been put on pre-alert in case intervention is necessary.