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Canary Islands people smuggler jailed for eight years


The Canaries has had a high number of migrants arrive this year as Covid changed migration routes – DESIREE MARTIN/AFP via Getty Images

A Moroccan people smuggler who sailed migrants to Spain’s Canary Islands has been jailed for eight years after being found guilty of double manslaughter and crimes against foreign citizens.

The sea captain packed around 30 people onto his 18 foot long boat for the crossing in May 2019, which ended up with the vessel crashing into rocks on the island of Gran Canaria.

A one-year-old baby girl and a middle-aged woman drowned, while another female passenger has never been found. All had paid €1,000 each for the trip.

The court in Las Palmas noted that the boat was “fragile, unstable, inappropriate for a journey of several days and unsuitable for transporting such as large number of people”.

The migrants, a mixture of Moroccans and sub-Saharan Africans, spent five days crammed into the boat, with little food or water and without enough life jackets for all passengers.  

The captain jumped into the sea before the collision, the court noted. He swam to safety and disappeared before being arrested in Las Palmas two weeks later.

As well as the jail sentence, the guilty man has been ordered to pay compensation totalling €165,000 (£149,000) to the mother of the baby and the daughter of the middle-aged woman who drowned.

The verdict comes during an uptick of migrant arrivals in the Canary Islands, with more than 11,000 recorded as having reached the archipelago so far this year, compared to less than 3,000 in all of 2019.

Two weeks ago, 140 people died when the boat they were using to travel from Senegal to the Canary Islands caught fire.

The International Organisation for Migration calculated that 414 migrants have lost their lives along the route in 2020.  

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