At least 7 are dead and 38 are rescued after a migrant boat was found near Spain’s Canary Islands

FILE - Empty boats used by migrants are moored at the port of Arguineguin in the Canary island of Gran Canaria, Spain, on Nov. 21, 2021. Spanish maritime rescuers say they have pulled 38 people alive and recovered two bodies from a migrant boat that was trying to reach the Canary Islands. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

FILE – Empty boats used by migrants are moored at the port of Arguineguin in the Canary island of Gran Canaria, Spain, on Nov. 21, 2021. Spanish maritime rescuers say they have pulled 38 people alive and recovered two bodies from a migrant boat that was trying to reach the Canary Islands. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Two bodies have been found in a migrant boat making the risky but increasingly popular voyage from West Africa toward Spain’s Canary Islands, and survivors said five other people died and were put overboard, maritime rescuers and the Red Cross said Tuesday.

There were 38 survivors. The migrants had departed Nouakchott, Mauritania’s capital, 10 days earlier, according to José Antonio Rodríguez Verona, a Spanish Red Cross coordinator. A merchant vessel spotted them drifting on Monday evening 76 nautical miles (140 kilometers or 87 miles) south of Gran Canaria.

Twelve survivors were taken to a hospital on the island including four in critical condition, Spain’s Maritime Rescue Service and the Red Cross said. The survivors came from Mauritania, Mali and Ivory Coast and included seven women, Rodríguez Verona said.

They told rescuers another five people died during the voyage and were put into the ocean, he added.

Spanish authorities have been grappling with a surge in migrants and refugees fleeing poverty, conflict and instability in West Africa heading to the archipelago, which is used as a stepping stone to continental Europe.

The increase prompted the European Union to announce a new migration partnership with Mauritania in February including 210 million euros ($229 million) for the nation to crack down on smugglers and stop departures.

Nearly 12,000 people landed in the Canaries in the first two months of the year, according to Spain’s Interior Ministry, more than six times the number for the same period last year.

Most migrants have departed from Mauritania on small fishing boats known as pirogues and navigated for several days in strong winds and Atlantic currents. While thousands have survived the journey, many die or disappear along the way, with remains sometimes washing up on the other side of the Atlantic.

Last week, two pirogues that had left Mauritania were found drifting hundreds of miles (kilometers) away near the archipelago nation of Cape Verde, police said. Eleven survivors were rescued from one boat and five from the second, though one person died later. Five bodies were recovered and dozens more were believed to have been lost at sea.

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