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50 refugees drown trying to reach Canary Islands

Around 50 refugees are reported to have died after news broke of refugee shipwrecks off the west coast of Africa.

The two separate refugee boats were attempting to reach Spain’s Canary Islands from Western Sahara at the time of the shipwreck.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) confirmed the deaths of 27 people who were found in the Atlantic alongside one survivor from Guinea.

“They’re all dead, I think. I am the only survivor,” security officials reported the Guinean survivor stated, he went on to explain that after the boat’s engine failed, the passengers aboard leapt into the open sea.

“These deaths are preventable, and they are avoidable,” states UNHCR special envoy for the central Mediterranean Vincent Cochetel.

Charlie Yaxley, UN refugee agency’s spokesman for Africa tweeted; 

“These are the awful consequences of immoral and unscrupulous smugglers and traffickers arranging these desperate sea journeys.”

Dangerous Route

The incident bears strong similarities to the migrant disaster off Mauritania in December, where 62 people drowned after the makeshift vessel also travelling to the Canary Islands hit a rock and capsized.

Those aboard the boats jumped into the water and 83 people survived by swimming ashore.

The Atlantic route is especially dangerous as these small refugee boats must bear the rough ocean conditions to reach the Spanish islands.

According to the International Organization for Migration, at least 170 people have reportedly died trying to reach the Canary Islands in 2019.

Read more from the Morning Star, Today RTL, and TRT World

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