At least 227 migrants were rescued off Spain’s Canary Islands on Thursday, officials say, a day after reported deaths of more than 30 migrants there.
Emergency services say the Coast Guard saved the migrants travelling on inflatable boats near the Lanzarote and Gran Canaria islands in the Atlantic.
A number of them were taken to hospital to be treated for a “mild condition”.
On Wednesday, two charities said more than 30 migrants may have drowned after their dinghy sank off Gran Canaria.
Spanish authorities said rescue workers found the bodies of a minor and a man, and rescued 24 other people.
However, the charities – Walking Borders and Alarm Phone – said about 60 people had been on board.
Helena Maleno Garzon, from Walking Borders, said 39 people had drowned, including four women and a baby, while Alarm Phone said 35 people were missing.
Both organisations monitor migrant boats and receive calls from people on board or their relatives.
A Spanish rescue service ship, the Guardamar Caliope, was only about an hour’s sail from the dinghy on Tuesday evening, according to Spanish news agency Efe.
But the ship did not aid the dinghy because the operation had been taken over by Moroccan officials, which dispatched a patrol boat that arrived on Wednesday morning, 10 hours after it had been spotted by a Spanish rescue plane, according to Reuters.
The BBC has sent a request for comment to Morocco’s interior ministry.
Angel Victor Torres, leader of the Canary Islands region, described the incident as a “tragedy” and called on the European Union to establish a migration policy that “offers coordinated and supportive responses” to the issue of migration.
Although off Africa’s western coast, the Canary Islands are part of Spain, and many migrants travel from Africa to the archipelago in the hope of reaching mainland Europe.
The Western Africa-Atlantic migration route is considered one of the world’s deadliest, and at least 543 migrants died or went missing on that journey in 2022, according to the UN’s International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
IOM says there were 45 shipwrecks on the route during that period, but acknowledges that the figure is “probably underestimated” because data is scarce and incomplete.
Most of those making the journey are from Morocco, Mali, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire and other parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, it says.
Last week, a migrant boat carrying hundreds of people sank off the Greek coast, with at least 78 known to have died, although many more are feared to have drowned.
The UN’s human rights office says up to 500 people are still missing, and the BBC has obtained evidence casting doubt on the Greek coastguard’s account of what happened. The coastguard claims that the boat was on a course to Italy and not in need of rescue.