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One migrant dead, 16 missing after boat sinks near Spain's Canary Islands

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By AFP  with Euronews
A Spanish maritime rescue vessel pictured near the port of Los Cristianos on the island of Tenerife.
A Spanish maritime rescue vessel pictured near the port of Los Cristianos on the island of Tenerife.   -   Copyright  DESIREE MARTIN / AFP, FILE

One migrant died, and at least 16 others are missing after a migrant boat sank off the coast of Spain's Canary Islands.

Forty migrants were rescued in an operation by Spanish authorities on Wednesday -- including one evacuated by helicopter.

Officials also recovered one person's dead body and continued to search for others.

"Sixteen people fell into the sea ... according to witness testimonies," a spokeswoman for the Canary Islands autonomous community told AFP.

The rescue operation took place 35 kilometres south of the island of Fuerteventura in the Atlantic Ocean.

Last year more than 39,000 people tried to reach Spain illegally, according to Interior Ministry data, including more than 20,000 people who used boats to try and get to the Canary Islands.

Meanwhile, at least 1,255 died during migrant crossings attempts -- the highest since the United Nations International Organisation for Migration (IOM) began compiling records in 2014.

However, a Spanish NGO Caminando Fronteras report estimates the number of fatalities was as high as 4,404 in 2021.

The NGO added that the figure is more than double the number of migrants who died trying to cross from Africa to Spain in 2020.

Spain remains one of the main entry points for illegal migrants trying to reach European soil.