16 migrants still missing after boat rescued off Canary Islands
"According to testimony from the 40 migrants who were rescued... another 16 people fell into the water off Fuerteventura," the spokeswoman told AFP, referring to one of the islands on the Atlantic archipelago.
Sources in Salvamento Maritimo, Spain's coastguard, also confirmed that 16 people were said to have gone missing from the boat they rescued, which was carrying 41 survivors and the body of a person who had died.
The rescue took place some 35 kilometres south of Fuerteventura, which is the closest island to the African coastline from which many boats set sail in a bid to reach European soil.
According to Caminando Fronteras, a Spanish NGO that helps migrant boats in distress, a total of 4,404 migrants died or disappeared while trying to reach Spain last year, up from 2,170 in 2020.
It was the highest yearly number since the group began keeping records in 2015. Many of the bodies are never found.
According to figures compiled by the International Organisation for Migration's Missing Migrants Project, at least 1,176 people died or went missing in 2021 on the Canary Islands route, while at least 384 others were lost in the Mediterranean while trying to reach Spain from Morocco and Algeria.
Last year, 40,100 migrants managed to reach Spain by sea, interior ministry figures show, a figure almost identical to the number that arrived a year earlier.