West and Central Africa — Irregular Migration Routes to Europe — Western African Atlantic Route (January - December 2023)




RO Dakar, RODakar-DataResearch@iom.int
Period Covered
Jan 01 2023
Dec 31 2023
  • Other
  • Mobility Tracking

Irregular migration is a complex, dynamic and fragmented phenomenon, and remains difficult to fully picture. Strengthening the understanding of migration routes, trends as well as migrant profiles is critical to protect migrants and support evidence-based policies. The International Organization for Migration's Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) and Missing Migrants Project (MMP) collect data on the departures, arrivals, deaths and disappearances of migrants along migratory routes.

This document presents the resumption of migration from the coasts of West Africa to the Canary Islands (Spain). This route, already active in 2006, saw an increasing number of movements in 2023. The risks, deaths and disappearances following shipwrecks are also on the rise along the Atlantic coasts.

Between January and December 2023, 39,910 migrants reached the Canary Islands irregularly after crossing by boat from the coasts of West Africa, an increase of 155 per cent compared to 2022 (15,682 migrants).

Nevertheless, risks and dangers along the West African Atlantic route remain and 47 shipwrecks were recorded along this route in 2023, resulting in the death or disappearance of 958 migrants.

Data on the West Africa Atlantic route remain scarce and incomplete. There is currently no harmonized approach to data collection except on arrival in the Canary Islands. Additional data is collected by IOM on arrivals profiles and intercepted vessels. There is very little data on the actual number of departures and attempts from West African coasts, while shipwrecks are often not reported.