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Spain Searching For 143 Missing Migrants Near Canary Islands

A child stands on a rescue vessel as he arrives with a group of migrants rescued by Spanish maritime authorities at Motril port in Granada, Spain, Feb. 11, 2020.

Spain on Tuesday was searching for some 143 people missing on five migrant boats en route to the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, according to Spain's maritime rescue service.

A Civil Guard plane was searching for the boats near the islands of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, off the northwest coast of Africa, the service said.

Authorities were alerted about the missing boats on Monday afternoon.

Helena Maleno, of the human rights group Walking Borders, told The Associated Press the migrants, including women and children, are believed to have departed from the northwest coast of Africa between Friday and Saturday.

Although the total number of sea crossings to Spain decreased by more than 50% in 2019, arrivals via the dangerous Atlantic route to the Canary Islands doubled. According to the International Organization for Migration at least 210 people died on that route last year.