Migrants wait to disembark from a Spanish coast guard vessel. | BORJA SUAREZ


The Spanish Coast Guard dispatched rescue vessels to help six boats of migrants drifting off the Canary Islands on Wednesday amid a surge in seaborne migration that has seen thousands make the dangerous crossing from Africa to the Atlantic archipelago.

Emergency services rescued 38 North African men from a first boat off Lanzarote after receiving a call from one of the people aboard. The men were in relatively good health and were transferred to Arrecife, authorities said.

A Coast Guard plane then located another four boats 44 km (27 miles) to the south of Gran Canaria and by late afternoon rescuers had plucked 77 men, 21 women and two children from the first three and were working to assist the fourth.

A fifth boat was also spotted off Tenerife with an unspecified number of people aboard.
On Tuesday some 355 people in 11 boats made it to the shores of Lanzarote and Gran Canaria.

Data from the Interior Ministry showed more than 9,250 migrants had arrived by sea to the Canaries archipelago by Aug. 29, more than double the number in the equivalent period in 2020.

Authorities expect the pace of arrivals to accelerate in the coming months, in line with a trend set last year when migration began to soar in the autumn as beefed up security in the Mediterranean and COVID-induced economic strife in Africa pushed more to brave the Atlantic route.

Local housing infrastructure buckled under the pressure, leaving thousands stranded on a dockside in Gran Canaria in November and eventually prompting the government to convert abandoned military barracks into camps.

A government spokesperson said on Wednesday that a total of 2,260 people were currently housed in reception facilities across the Canaries, out of a total capacity for 7,000.

"For now we have resources," she said. "But it's true that more complicated months are coming."