Hundreds protested Saturday in the Canary Islands against an influx of migrants to the Spanish archipelago, which has welcomed more than 19,000 migrants since the beginning of 2024.

Located off the coast of northwest Africa, the Canary Islands have become an increasingly popular destination for migrants braving the perilous Atlantic crossing in the hope of finding a better life in Europe.

Carrying “Defend our neighbourhoods” and “Stop illegal immigration” placards, the demonstrators took to the streets of towns including Las Palmas and Santa Cruz de Tenerife, with local media putting their numbers at several hundred.

“This situation in the Canaries is unbearable,” Juan Manuel Garcia, who took part in the demonstration in Tenerife, told AFPTV.

“The Canaries don’t have the means to support those who arrive,” the 70-year-old added.

Rudy Ruyman, who helped organise the demonstration, said that the situation had become “a traffic in human lives”, warning that “the mafia is profiting from all the deaths at sea”.

Several lawyers had asked the public prosecutor’s office to ban the demonstrations on the grounds that they could constitute a hate crime.

But the authorities did not act on that request, according to local media.

Spain is one of the three main entry points for migrants coming to Europe, along with Italy and Greece.

Until June 30, 19,257 migrants arrived by sea in the Canary Islands aboard 297 boats, according to figures from the Ministry of the Interior — up from 7,213 aboard 150 boats in the same period last year.

In 2023, nearly 40,000 migrants arrived in the archipelago, compared with 15,600 in 2022, surpassing the record set in 2006.

Although the Atlantic route is especially dangerous for migrants, it is becoming increasingly popular because it is less closely monitored than the Mediterranean.

On Saturday, a new vessel with 56 people on board arrived on the small island of El Hierro, in the southwest of the Canaries.

One of the 56 was found dead, the emergency services said.

More than 5,000 migrants died trying to reach Spain by sea in the first five months of the year, equivalent to 33 deaths a day, Spanish NGO Caminando Fronteras reported in June.

The vast majority of those deaths happened en route to the Canary Islands.

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