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Rescuers find 17 dead, save 3 from migrant boat off Spain's Canary Islands

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FILE: A migrant woman is disembarked on a stretcher from a Spanish coast guard vessel upon its arrival at the port of Los Cristianos, Tenerife, March 26, 2021
FILE: A migrant woman is disembarked on a stretcher from a Spanish coast guard vessel upon its arrival at the port of Los Cristianos, Tenerife, March 26, 2021   -   Copyright  DESIREE MARTIN/AFP
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Seventeen people were found dead on a migrant boat off the Canary Islands on Monday, while three were rescued, Spanish maritime rescue services said.

The boat was spotted about 500 km southeast of the island of El Hierro, the smallest of the Canary Islands.

A helicopter flew to the scene to evacuate the three survivors, a spokesperson of the service said.

The Atlantic crossing from the Western coast of Africa to Spain’s Canary Islands has become a major route for migrants and asylum-seekers fleeing conflict, violence and economic plight exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 2,400 people have reached the Canaries in the first three months of this year.

Last year, 23,000 people arrived by boat to the archipelago and nearly 850 others have died or gone missing along the way, according to the UN.