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Number of people lost at sea trying to reach Spain 'doubles in a year'

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By Euronews  with Reuters
In this Oct. 16, 2020 file photo, a wooden boat used by migrants from Morocco sits on the shore on the coast of the Canary Island of Gran Canaria, Spain.
In this Oct. 16, 2020 file photo, a wooden boat used by migrants from Morocco sits on the shore on the coast of the Canary Island of Gran Canaria, Spain.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Javier Bauluz, File

The number of migrants and refugees who died trying to reach Spain topped 4,400 in 2021 -- more than double the total in the previous year, according to a monitoring group.

Caminando Fronteras (Walking Borders) says in its report published on Monday that some 90% of those lost perished on 124 boats shipwrecked on their way to Spain's Canary Islands in the year to December 20.

Its estimate is several times that of the United Nations International Organization for Migration (IOM), which puts the total at 955 who died or went missing trying to reach the Canary Islands by December 22 but accepts the real figure may be much higher.

Walking Borders suggests more people are attempting to reach Spain via the Canaries route -- and dying doing so -- because of the clampdown on migrants crossing the Mediterranean towards Europe;

"The deterrence and contention policies imposed by Europe and Morocco on Western Mediterranean routes have steadily pushed migration flows towards the Atlantic, making the Canary Islands the main destination for people on the move," the report says.

The group estimates that at least 4,404 people including 205 children died on one of several migratory access routes to Spain -- an average of 12 a day -- compared to 2,170 deaths and disappearances in 2020.

It said routes used by migrants were becoming increasingly dangerous, as were the boats carrying them, and also blamed ships for failing to help people in difficulty at sea for the surge in deaths.

Walking Borders investigates the fate of each boat that goes missing and draws data from migrant hotlines and families seeking information.