Fifteen Africans, mostly children, die on way to Spain
The other 33 survivors who have been rescued by Spanish police after five days of drifting in the sea remain in poor health.10 July 2008
ALMERIA - Fifteen African would-be immigrants, including nine young children, have died after their boat was left adrift by an engine failure while trying to reach Spain, police said Thursday.
Thirty-three survivors, many of them in poor health, were rescued overnight about 50 kilometres off Almeria on the southern coast. They included a baby and 13 women, three of them pregnant.
The survivors said they had been adrift for more than five days. They said they had thrown into the sea the bodies of 14 people who perished, including nine children aged between 12 months and four years.
The 15th victim, who was a woman, died before the police patrol boat which rescued the survivors reached Almeria. Reports said she suffered from hypothermia.
Police sources had initially spoken of a total of 14 victims.
Half of the survivors were described as being in very poor health. Many of them had to be carried. The baby who survived was being treated for serious burns, high fever and breathing difficulties.
The 6-metre-long rubber dinghy had set off from an unknown location on the North African coast.
Police located the vessel after it had been spotted by a sailing boat.
Officials said the survivors would probably be repatriated after they recovered from their ordeal, because that was "the general destiny" of undocumented immigrants.
The tragedy followed the deaths of 14 Nigerians, including four women and a minor, who went missing after their boat capsized on Monday.
At least 70 would-be immigrants have lost their lives while trying to cross over from Africa to Spain so far this year. The non- governmental organisation Pro Derechos Humanos de Andalucia says 921 migrants died during such crossings in 2007.
The number of immigrant boats heading for Spain usually increases in the summer months, when the weather favours navigation.
About 18,000 would-be immigrants coming from Africa were detained in Spanish waters or on land in 2007, less than half the number arrested in 2006.
Most of the immigrant boats were intercepted on Gran Canaria Island as well as Almeria and Cadiz provinces on the mainland.
Increased maritime surveillance and expulsions are believed to have helped to curb illegal immigration.
[dpa / Expatica]
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