At the end of April, three passengers were rescued from a boat under the Spanish island of Ferro who were stuck at sea without food for more than three weeks. The other 56 passengers had died from dehydration. As far as is known, this is the greatest tragedy involving migrant boats in the Canary Islands. “It was a mass grave in the middle of the sea.”
The small boat drifted some 500 kilometers below the Spanish island of Ferro, the most southwestern of the Canary Islands. When the Spanish Air Force signaled the boat, a helicopter was immediately sent to see if there were any survivors.
“When we went down, we saw that it was not right,” says a person involved in a BBC video report. “Then all kinds of things are going through your head. You have to be very focused at that point to get the survivors out.”
Air force members found dozens of passengers, three of whom were still alive. They were physically in bad shape and suffered from symptoms of dehydration, among other things. One of them is 17-year-old Aicha from the West African country of Ivory Coast. She tells her story to the British broadcaster with emotion.
Aicha left her hometown in November and traveled to Mauritania, where she got the boat. Only her older sister knew of her plans to make the perilous journey, according to the report.
“After two days on the boat, we ran out of food and drink. On day four, the fuel was also out. There were men on board who could no longer stand and were crying out with hunger. We used a shoe to give them some seawater. By the end, we didn’t even have the strength to throw a body into the water.”
The moment she saw the helicopter approaching, Aicha said she burst into tears. The girl has fully recovered three weeks after the rescue and is placed with a foster family.
The Spanish Air Force is now preparing for another rescue operation. “Unfortunately, there are more missions like this one to come. But our rescue team was also set up for that,” explains one person involved. Whether he sees himself as a hero? “No, I just do my job. Heroes belong in comic books.”
Dramas with migrant boats
A tragedy involving a migrant ship also took place in Libya at the end of April. A boat with about 130 people on board capsized off the coast of the country. A dozen bodies are said to have been seen in the area where the ship capsized.
A week earlier, the UN refugee agency UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration IOM reported that at least 41 people, including a child, had died after a boat carrying African migrants sank off the coast of Tunisia.
So far, at least 450 migrants have been killed in the Mediterranean this year. Most of them tried to reach Europe from Libya or Tunisia.