Spain offers aid to stop more immigrants arriving
16 March 2006, MADRID — As the number of floating corpses recovered by Spanish vessels rose to 24, Madrid offered emergency aid to Mauritania to stop the rise of African emigrants bound for the Canary Islands.
16 March 2006
MADRID — As the number of floating corpses recovered by Spanish vessels rose to 24, Madrid offered emergency aid to Mauritania to stop the rise of African emigrants bound for the Canary Islands.
Ahmedu Uld Haye, from the Red Crescent in Mauritania, said after the latest casualties off the Mauritanian coast, more than 1,200 undocumented emigrants had died or disappeared in the past few months trying to get to the Canary Islands.
The latest deaths, along with 45 others recovered on 5 March after two small and overloaded boats sank off the Western Sahara's coast, spurred the Spanish government to announce what it termed an Urgent Cooperation Plan with Mauritania.
Madrid offered Mauritania patrol boats to monitor the coasts and aid to set up reception centres for immigrants, and the government also decided to sent two high officials to the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott on Thursday to secure agreement to the plan.
Spain's ambassador to Mauritania, Alejandro Polanco, said that the African nation lacks the means to monitor its 1,000-kilometre (620-mile) coastline to prevent migrants from setting sail.
The rescue and recovery operation was launched late on Wednesday, when the Esperanza del Mar received a message from a fishing boat's crew who had seen bodies floating in the water.
The Spanish vessel went to the site and immediately was able to recover five corpses before nightfall forced a suspension of recovery efforts.
Two more boats were detected in the zone south of the island of Tenerife carrying a total of 123 sub-Saharan males, two of whom were tentatively identified as the vessels' owners and arrested.
The Canary Islands was hit with the biggest wave of migrants in its history this week, with 331 Africans arriving at the islands on eight boats.
The previous day, 282 migrants had arrived, and so far this year, more than 2,500 immigrants have landed in the Canaries, compared with 857 in the first three months of 2005.
Also on Tuesday, Almeria saw the arrival of 86 African migrants in three boats intercepted by Spanish coastguards.
Officials said the number of illegal immigrants who have sailed in small boats to the Canary Islands so far this year was triple the number that arrived during the same period in 2005.
The sea separating Africa from the Canary Islands has long been the scene of attempted crossings - some successful and others not - of people from African countries hoping to reach the coast of Spain in an effort to stay in that country or continue on to another European destination.
More immigrants are trying to enter Spain by sea now that the route through Ceuta and Melilla has become more difficult due to tighter security, the result of last year's massive attempts by sub-Saharan Africans to enter Spain's North African enclaves.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news