Still, Frank Laczko, the director of the I.O.M.’s Global Migration Data Analysis Center, warned last week that the real number of lives lost at sea was probably much higher. “Invisible shipwrecks, in which there are no survivors, are believed to be frequent occurrences on this route but are nearly impossible to verify,” he said in the report.
Over the past two years, the Canary Islands have increasingly become a gateway to Europe for thousands of migrants, including a rising number who board ships from ports like Dakhla in the Western Sahara, a heavily militarized area where Morocco has been involved in a longstanding territorial conflict.
Migration experts think part of the increase in travel to the Canary Islands has come as human traffickers revived that route after other crossings, notably that between Italy and Libya, became impassible.
Even as many die at sea, the influx of those who survive the journey has strained the migration centers in the Canary archipelago, which is also one of Spain’s main tourist destinations. Last year, the Spanish government housed thousands of migrants who had reached the island of Gran Canaria in hotels that had been shuttered by the coronavirus pandemic.