Migrants reaching Spain's Canary Islands near 32,000 this year

FILE PHOTO: Rescue workers search for bodies after a boat with 46 migrants from the Maghreb region capsized in the beach of Orzola

MADRID (Reuters) - Nearly 32,000 migrants have reached Spain's Canary Islands on fragile boats from west Africa this year, passing a previous record posted in 2006, regional authorities said on Sunday.

So far this year, 31,933 people have reached the islands, compared with the 2006 small boats crisis when 31,678 people made it to the Canaries, regional authorities told Reuters.

Since Friday, 739 people have been rescued in the Atlantic Ocean off El Hierro, the smallest and most westerly island in the archipelago, the Spanish coastguard said.

Two people were found dead in four boats and two other people died later in hospital, said the Spanish Civil Guard on Saturday, which also took part in the rescue in which women and children were among those saved.

Fernando Clavijo, the Canary Islands regional chief, said the figures showed the scale of the humanitarian crisis faced by the islands and called for more help from the Spanish government and the European Union.

"The 2006 data have been surpassed but the response of the State and EU is not the same. Migration management on the southern border must be a priority on the Spanish and European agenda," he posted on the X social media site on Saturday.

The number of arrivals has recently jumped as milder weather and calmer seas since September have made it more feasible to attempt the still perilous crossing from Africa.

The archipelago lies around 100 km (60 miles) off Africa's west coast. Its seven islands have become the main destination for migrants from Senegal and other African countries trying to reach Spain, fleeing conflict or seeking a better life.

The Spanish government said it would create additional emergency accommodation for some 3,000 migrants in military barracks, hotels and hostels.

(Reporting by Graham Keeley; Editing by Giles Elgood)