A maritime rescue boat. / EFE

People traffickers charged in Spain with homicide over the deaths of more than 20 migrants

When their boat arrived at El Hierro in the Canary Islands, the 48 migrants on board told Spanish police that 74 people had been making the journey from Mauritania, and the bodies of those who died had been thrown overboard

EUROPA PRESS Santa Cruz de Tenerife

Three men in charge of a boat which arrived on the Spanish island of El Hierro on 27 March with 48 migrants on board have been arrested for suspected homicide and a crime against the rights of foreign citizens, after the police were told by the survivors that over 20 people had died during the crossing. Five of those who arrived safely were admitted to hospital, including two children. The migrants say there had been 75 people on board when the boat left Mauritania, and the men who have now been arrested had thrown the bodies of the deceased overboard, including one just before arriving at El Hierro.

The boat had left Nauckchot in the early hours of 19 March and within a few days the drinking water had run out and the migrants had nothing but biscuits to eat. One of those on board who was later admitted to hospital had drunk sea water to quench his thirst. They said the conditions on board the boat had been appalling, including the behaviour of the people traffickers, who they said had tied one man up and beaten him.

The three men in charge of the boat have been charged with alleged homicide and offences against the rights of foreigners, and two of them are being kept in custody while they await trial.