Despite numerous rescue operations by Salvamento Marítimo, at least 28 people died in the Atlantic on 9 May – another 44 lives lost off Western Sahara on 8 May. Spain and Morocco has agreed to strengthen cooperation on migration deterrence.

On 9 May Spanish rescue helicopters from Salvamento Marítimo managed to rescue 13 people clinging on to an inflatable boat in the Atlantic off the Canary Islands. However, at least 28 people from the boat, that had been at sea for four days, had disappeared in the Atlantic ocean when it turned over due to harsh weather before rescuers arrived. The day after on 10 May Salvamento Marítimo rescued 57 people including three children of sub-Saharan descent on an inflatable boat attempting to reach the Canary Islands. Further, Salvamento Marítimo reported of an emergency landing of one of its maritime rescue planes on Lanzarote – the plane had lost an engine while searching for people in distress on the Atlantic. According to the rescue service the search for several boats including one with 71 people on board heading for Gran Canaria is ongoing. On 11 May 37 people, including eight children and a baby arrived in Lanzarote and were assisted by the local Red Cross. On 13 May Salvamento Marítimo disembarked a group of 15 people of sub-Saharan origin in Gran Canaria – one of them deceased.

At least 44 people drowned on 8 May when their boat capsized off the coast of Western Sahara. Seven bodies were recovered and reportedly 12 survivors were arrested. Moroccan authorities have offered no immediate confirmation of the incident.

After a long diplomatic spat, Spanish Moroccan relations improved in the spring when Madrid offered its support for Rabat’s “autonomy plan” for Western Sahara. The Spanish U-turn on the disputed territory has paved the way for a strengthening of the “cooperation on irregular migration”. A joint statement released on 6 May stated: “Faced with the shared challenges leading from the action of migrant trafficking networks and the unstable regional environment, the two parties decided to strengthen their coordination and information exchange mechanisms”. The cooperation will include police, liaison officers and mixed patrols, with the return of migrants as “an essential means of deterrence”. According to Moroccan authorities more than 14,700 irregular departures has been prevented during the first three months of 2022 and a total of 63,120 throughout 2021.

The International Organization for Migration IOM figures reveal a total of 239 people dead or missing on the western Africa/Atlantic route and 40 on the western Mediterranean route in 2022 so far.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.