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Record number of African migrants land in Spain's Canary Islands

Migrants on a wooden boat arrive in Canary Islands   -  
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Humberto Bilbao/AP


Spain said on Sunday that nearly 32,000 people migrants from west Africa have arrived so far this year on its Canary Islands, setting a new record.

Regional authorities said 31,933 people have reached the archipelago, compared to the 31,678 that arrived during the 2006 migration crisis.

The islands are just 100km off the north-western coast of Africa.

Although there are also boats from the Gambia, Mauritania, Morocco, and the Western Sahara, most of those arriving this year are young people from Senegal looking for better opportunities in Europe.

They made the treacherous journey of over 1,500 thousand kilometres packed into old artisanal fishing boat by smugglers looking to make quick money.

Those that arrive are the lucky ones. The boats usually take a longer route far from the coast to avoid border controls and many of them do not make it.

But recent socio-political unrest, lack of jobs, and rising food prices in Senegal, once a beacon of democratic stability in the region, has pushed more people to attempt the trip.

With the uptick in migrants arriving on the islands, Spain Interior minister travelled to the Senegalese capital, Dakar, last week to press the government to do more to stop boats from leaving.

Fernando Grande-Marlaska urged his Senegalese counterpart, Sidiki Kaba, to "act more quickly," and avoid more deaths.

At least 512 people have died on that route so far this year according to the International Organization for Migration, though the figure is believed to be a vast undercount.

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