Lanzarote: Seven African migrants die trying to enter Spanish island

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FILE: Seven African migrants have died trying to reach the Spanish island of Lanzarote
Seven African migrants have died trying to reach the Spanish island of Lanzarote

Spanish police in the Canary Islands say seven African migrants have died trying to reach the island of Lanzarote.

Five people were found dead in a drifting inflatable boat and two others died trying to swim to shore.

About 20 survivors are being treated for hypothermia by local medical services.

Lanzarote is about 150km (93 miles) from the Moroccan coast.

A 2017 report by the Spanish Commission for Refugees (CEAR) revealed that migrant arrivals by sea to Spain tripled in 2017 compared to 2016 figures.

The number was fuelled by a surge in the numbers of Algerians and Moroccans, while over 200 died trying to make the crossing.

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“At the end of the year, the tally is devastating,” CEAR which defends the right to asylum, said in a statement.

Almost 21,500 people arrived by sea on Spain’s southern shores — popular with northern European tourists — between January 1 and December 20, up from 6,046 during the same period last year, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The number of deaths is also up. So far this year 223 people have died or disappeared while trying to reach Spain by boat, 95 more than in 2016.

Most sea arrivals are reported along the Strait of Gibraltar which is the narrowest passage of the Mediterranean Sea separating Spain from Morocco.

Smugglers transport migrants to Spain on rickety wooden boats, inflatable dinghies, and even jet-skis, charging hundreds of euros for the trip.