Spain’s coastguard dispatched rescue vessels on Wednesday to help six migrant boats drifting from the Canary Islands amid a wave of maritime migration that has seen thousands of people make the dangerous crossing from Africa to the archipelago of the Atlantic.
Emergency services rescued 38 North African men from a first boat off Lanzarote after receiving a call from one of the people on board. The men were in relatively good health and were transferred to Arrecife, authorities said.
A Coast Guard plane then located four more boats 44km (27 miles) south of Gran Canaria and by late afternoon rescuers had snatched 77 men, 21 women and two children from the first three and were working to help the fourth.
A fifth boat was also spotted off Tenerife with an unknown number of people on board.
On Tuesday, some 355 people in 11 boats reached the coasts of Lanzarote and Gran Canaria.
Interior Ministry data showed that more than 9,250 migrants had arrived by sea in the Canary archipelago by August 29, more than double the number in the equivalent period in 2020.
Authorities expect the pace of arrivals to pick up in the coming months, in line with a trend set last year when migration began to soar in the fall amid heightened security in Mediterranean and COVID-19-induced economic strife in Africa has prompted more to brave the Atlantic route.
Local housing infrastructure gave way under the strain, leaving thousands of people stranded on a wharf in Gran Canaria in November and eventually prompting the government to convert abandoned military barracks into camps.
A government spokesman said on Wednesday that a total of 2,260 people were currently accommodated in reception facilities across the Canary Islands, out of a total capacity of 7,000.
“Right now we have resources,” she said. “But it’s true that more complicated months are coming.”