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Boat carrying 81 migrants arrives in Canary Islands, one person found dead

LA RESTINGA, Spain – A boat carrying 81 migrants arrived on the Spanish Canary island of El Hierro on Thursday, including one person who had died and others in need of medical assistance, local emergency services said.

At least five migrants were receiving assistance in a temporary hospital set up by the Red Cross at the port of La Restinga, the emergency services said, without giving more details. Some migrants who have arrived in recent days have been suffering from hypothermia and dehydration.

La Restinga, a town of around 400 people and popular tourist destination, has become a magnet for migrants attempting to reach Europe from West Africa in recent months.

In the last week alone, 855 migrants have arrived at La Restinga, which is located in the south of El Hierro, the smallest and westernmost island in the Atlantic archipelago of the Canary Islands, according to the Spanish coastguard.

On Thursday, the Red Cross provided the migrants with red blankets as they waited on the dock for the national police to register their entry.

The migrants sang as their boat entered the port, trailed by a Guardia Civil patrol boat.

Around 32,000 migrants have reached the Canary Islands from West Africa on fragile boats this year, higher than the previous record set in 2006, according to regional authorities. El Hierro has received more migrants than its own population of 9,000 people this year.

The majority of migrants arriving in El Hierro are young men from fishing villages in Senegal and Gambia.

Some 30 wooden boats, most of them dwarfing the Spanish coastguard vessel, are still docked in La Restinga after being used for the risky seven-day, 1,500-kilometre (930-mile) voyage across the Atlantic Ocean.

As the migrants received medical attention, some tourists who were passing the marina where scuba diving companies operate stopped to watch.

Aranza Lopez, 36, a tourist visiting the island for the first time from the Spanish mainland, said she found it “shocking” to see people arriving in such rickety boats. REUTERS

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