More than 900 migrants arrived in Spain’s Canary Islands in the past 24 hours, crossing from West Africa on several ships, the country’s maritime rescue service said on Friday.
Their arrival came as European Union leaders met in Granada, southern Spain, to focus on the sensitive issue of migration due to the recent surge in arrivals to Italy’s Lampedusa island.
According to Spanish rescue services, five boats carrying a total of 526 people arrived on El Hierro, the smallest and westernmost island in the Canary Islands.
Two more boats arrived in Tenerife and three in Gran Canaria, bringing a total of 908 people, including women and children.
Late Friday, a rescue team spokeswoman said two more boats carrying about 150 people were on their way to El Hierro. The Canary Islands have seen a surge in migrants in recent days as smugglers take advantage of the calm weather to bring people to the Atlantic archipelago off Africa’s northwest coast.
These islands are at their closest point 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Morocco.
On Tuesday, a boat carrying 280 migrants landed on El Hierro, the largest number ever to arrive on a single ship in the archipelago.
More than 1,200 migrants have arrived on the small island of 11,000 people in the past week, putting a strain on social services, officials said.
Juan Miguel Padrón, the mayor of El Pinar, near the port that took in the refugee boat, told Spanish public television that “all the nurses and doctors” in the town had been withdrawn to deal with the situation.
Spanish authorities transferred around 500 migrants from El Hierro to Tenerife overnight on Thursday. In recent years, migration routes to the Canary Islands have become particularly congested due to stricter regulations in the Mediterranean.
Due to the particularly dangerous river crossings, many accidents occur.
According to the latest statistics from Spain’s Interior Ministry, 14,976 migrants arrived in the Canary Islands between January 1 and September 30, an increase of 19.8% compared to the same period in 2022.