Migrants arrive on a small boat at La Restinga port...

Migrants arrive on a small boat at La Restinga port on the canary island of El Hierro on Sunday Feb. 4, 2024. Spain's marine rescue service says nearly 1,000 migrants from sub-Saharan countries arrived in Spain's Canary Islands in 18 boats in the past three days. The agency says two bodies were found aboard one of the boats intercepted Monday. Credit: AP

MADRID — More than 1,000 migrants from sub-Saharan countries arrived in Spain’s Canary Islands in 18 boats over the past three days, Spain’s marine rescue service said Monday. A body was found in one of the boats.

The archipelago off northwest Africa has seen a surge in migrant arrivals in recent weeks as more people from West Africa attempt the dangerous journey. Officials say 7,270 migrants arrived in January, about as many as in the first six months of 2023.

Most of the boats depart from Mauritania. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will visit the West African country on Thursday to encourage authorities to try to curtail the departures.

Spain and the European Union have cooperation agreements with both Mauritania and neighboring Senegal to try to reduce the number of migrants arriving on the islands. But some young people insist on taking their chances and say there are few opportunities and sometimes political turmoil at home.

Spain's interior ministry says a record 55,618 migrants arrived by boat — most of them in the Canary Islands — last year, almost double the number of the previous year.

The Spanish non-profit organization Caminando Fronteras (Walking Borders) says more than 6,600 migrants died while trying to reach Spain by boat last year, most of them on the Atlantic route. The figure is more than double the number reported by the organization for 2022.

Caminando Fronteras says it compiles its own figures from families of migrants and rescue statistics.

Migrants are given blankets and other items after arriving on...

Migrants are given blankets and other items after arriving on a small boat at La Restinga port on the canary island of El Hierro on Sunday Feb. 4, 2024. Spain's marine rescue service says nearly 1,000 migrants from sub-Saharan countries arrived in Spain's Canary Islands in 18 boats in the past three days. The agency says two bodies were found aboard one of the boats intercepted Monday. Credit: AP

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