The Spanish coastguard rescued 86 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa on Monday aboard a boat found near the Canary Islands.
Spotted earlier by a rescue plane, the boat's 6 women and 80 men were brought to the port of Arguineguin on Gran Canaria, where they were greeted by Red Cross workers who provided them with medical care.
Rescuers were at the time searching the area for a vessel with around 200 people on board that left Senegal on June 27. Initially, the coastguard believed Monday's boat was the same one that is missing. However, the Salvamento Maritimo coastguard's spokeswoman later said she was not able to confirm whether there was still a boat adrift in the area.
Senegalese migrant route
The boat in question left the southern Senegalese town of Kafountine on June 27, according to Spanish NGO Caminando Fronteras, who also said that "there are many minors on board". The NGO know of two other boats with around 120 people on board that were also missing after leaving Senegal on June 23.
Kafountine, a fishing village in Senegal, which lies at least 1,700 kilometres south of the Canary Islands. The area is a regular departure point for migrants hoping to reach Europe via the islands.
David Diatta, Kafountine's mayor, said some migrants had recently left the village but he had not heard any news about them since.
"They are Senegalese, Gambians, Guineans, Sierra Leoneans... Most of the time, they are foreigners," he said.
Since the EU's clampdown on migrant crossings in the Mediterranean, the numbers of Atlantic crossings have surged with many migrants from Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania and Senegal hoping to reach Europe by the Canary Islands. While some hope to settle in Spain, many often use the country as a stepping stone to other European Union countries.
The Atlantic route is particularly dangerous due to strong currents, with migrants traveling in overloaded boats without sufficient drinking water.
Caminando Frontera says 778 people died while trying to reach the Canary Islands by boat in the first half of this year. Figures from the International Organisation for Migration say there are 126 dead or missing over the same period.
In the first six months of this year, 7213 migrants arrived on the islands by boat. This figure is down by nearly 20 per cent compared to the same period in 2022, according to the Spanish interior ministry.