Most on stopped migrant boat to Spain are minors

13th March 2009, Comments 0 comments

A Spanish official says most of the 65 migrants from Africa found on a boat are minors.

MADRID – Spanish authorities intercepted a boat crowded with 65 migrants, most of them minors, in the Canary Islands, an official said Wednesday.

Though the decrepit boats that frequently bring poor Africans to the Spanish islands often carry children or even babies, it is rare for most of a boat's passengers to be minors.

Most of the 65 found Tuesday aboard the boat appeared to be in good health, Maritime Rescue Service spokeswoman Maria Dolores Septien said, but would not give their ages or nationalities.

The boat was picked up near a small port on the island of El Hierro, Septien said.

The Canary Islands newspaper La Opinion reported that most of the migrants are from Gambia, a small country on the West African coast, but others were from Senegal and Mali.

Tens of thousands of migrants from Africa each year attempt dangerous journeys in overcrowded boats to reach either the Canary Islands or the Spanish mainland in hopes of finding a better life in Europe.

Adult migrants are usually sent back to their home country, if it has been identified, while children are generally sent to shelters.

However, Spain has fast-track repatriation accords with some countries, such as Morocco, which allow for some children to be sent home as well. Many migrants arrive without identity papers with the goal of avoiding repatriation.

In January, Spanish officials said that increased surveillance of African coastal waters had reduced the number of boat migrants by 25 percent in a year. Last year, nearly 13,500 migrants reached Spain in clandestine boat trips, compared with about 18,000 in 2007.

AP / Expatica

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