Home » Spain Sends Drones, Personnel to Senegal to Stop Boats Departing for Canary Islands
Africa News Spain

Spain Sends Drones, Personnel to Senegal to Stop Boats Departing for Canary Islands

Six new Spanish multicopter drones have arrived in Senegal, news agency Reuters reported Monday (October 30), citing a statement by Spain’s acting Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska.

Grande-Marlaska said the Spanish government also plans to send more security personnel to the western African nation to help prevent departures of migrants to Spain’s Canary Islands, located some 1,300 kilometers north of Senegal.

Grande-Marlaska is visiting Senegal at a time when the number of migrants from West Africa, especially Senegal, reaching the Canary Islands is approaching an all-time high: More than 27,000 migrants have arrived on the island group irregularly this year through October 23, IOM data show. According to official Spanish government figures, the number of arrivals through October 15 was somewhat lower, at around 23,500

“We must stop unscrupulous actions that put the lives of thousands of vulnerable people at risk,” Grande-Marlaska said during a joint press conference with his Senegalese counterpart, Sidiki Kaba.

So-called multicopters, or multirotors, have up to eight rotors and are frequently used in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), commonly referred to as drones.

Detection followed by interception

Grande-Marlaska said the drones delivered to the Senegalese police are designed to detect departing migrant boats so that they can be intercepted.

He added that Spain has also deployed a civil guard aircraft to help patrol the coasts of Senegal and neighboring Mauritania. In addition, 38 personnel equipped with four boats, a helicopter and 13 all-terrain vehicles are to carry out joint patrol missions with Senegalese forces, Grande-Marlaska said.

Thousands of migrants have left Senegal in packed boats like these in recent months | Photo: Zane Irwin/AP Photo/picture alliance

While both ministers stressed they would increase efforts to curb irregular migration and avoid more deaths at sea, they did not announce any measures beyond the drones and the personnel.

Grande-Marlaska’s visit follows the announcement of plans to send Senegalese migrants on direct flights from the Canary Islands back to the capital Dakar. The measure is to target those who have arrived in the Canaries in the last three months and are considered by the authorities not to have valid grounds to claim asylum.

Primary maritime routes to Spain's Canary Islands | Credit: DW

Senegal as main departure point

Atlantic crossings began rising in late 2019 after increased patrols along Europe’s southern coast dramatically reduced Mediterranean crossings. In 2020, the IOM registered just over 23,000 migrant arrivals in the Canary Islands. In 2021 it fell slightly to 22,000 and last year, there were around 15,000.

The largest number of arrivals was recorded in 2006, when more than 32,000 migrants reached the islands.

While the main countries of departure were Morocco and Western Sahara, which are around 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the Canaries, most of the boats now depart from Senegal.

On a visit to the Canary Islands earlier this month, Marlaska said the recent increase in migrant arrivals was directly linked to the political “destabilization of the Sahel.”

The region has seen several military coups in past few years, with Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea, Gabon, Mali, Niger and Sudan now all ruled by military juntas.

The journey across the stretch of the Atlantic Ocean remains highly dangerous. According to the UN migration agency IOM, 153 people are known to have died or gone missing so far this year trying to reach the Canary Islands by boat. The charity Walking Borders (Caminando Fronteras) estimates the figure to be at least 1,000.

On Monday (October 30), the bodies of two people were discovered on a boat with 200 migrants on board near the island of Tenerife. The boat, which Spain’s Marine Rescue Service said was carrying 34 children and teenagers, was the third to arrive on the island on Monday.

Source: Info Migrants