MADRID, Feb. 4 — The number of immigrants who risked their lives to cross the Mediterranean Sea to reach Spain tripled year on year in January 2019.
The Spanish Interior Ministry said 4,104 people in 98 boats or dinghies reached Spain, including the Balearic and Canary Islands and the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, by sea in the first month of this year, signaling a large increase from the 1,396 in January 2018.
The majority of the January 2019 arrivals, that is 3,994, made dangerous crossings to the Spanish mainland or the Balearic Islands. Meanwhile, 40 people reached the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of Africa, with 63 others going to Ceuta and seven to Melilla.
Such a high number of immigrants from North Africa to Spain partly resulted from high-pressure weather systems over the region for much of the month, which meant less wind and much calmer seas than usual and made the sea crossing possible.
Approximately 57,000 migrants crossed from North Africa to Spain last year, beating the previous record of 39,000 in 2006 and more than the total number in the entire period of 2010-2017, figures by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) showed.
The IOM also estimates that at least 769 people lost their lives in 2018 when attempting to make the voyage.