Critics have accused the Greek authorities of not acting quickly enough to rescue the ailing boat. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who has taken a hard-line on migration, said on Monday that it was a European Union issue and that it was “unfair” for Greece to assume the burden of managing the gateway.
Mr. Mitsotakis, like other European governments, have blamed the deaths on people smugglers, and European governments are still struggling with how to handle migrants. Differences over migration policies have divded governments around the continent, and led the Dutch government to collapse on Friday.
Illegal immigration to Europe from Senegal has been a recurring issue as young people, facing widespread unemployment under successive governments, have tried to migrate to find work. Packed wooden fishing boats, known as pirogues, leave Senegalese coastal towns every week with dozens of young men hoping to reach the Canary Islands and later continental Spain — a phenomenon known in Wolof, Senegal’s main language, as “Barca wall Barsax,” or “Barcelona or die trying.”
Movement along the Atlantic route surged after 2019 and during the Covid pandemic, according to a report from the International Organization for Migration, a U.N. agency, but the travel declined last year as Morocco intensified border patrol efforts at sea. Last year, more than 15,600 people migrated to the Canary Islands after crossing by boat from West Africa. Many of those aboard were migrants from Morocco, Mali and Senegal, the report said.
As of mid June, 10,348 migrants had already arrived in Spain by sea this year, according to a report by Spain’s Interior Ministry.
Last year, 45 shipwrecks were recorded and 543 migrants died or disappeared along the Atlantic route, the United Nations said, noting that the figure was likely underreported because some shipwrecks were not found.
Elian Peltier contributed reporting from Dakar, Senegal and Rachel Chaundler reported from Zaragoza, Spain.