Thirty-two migrants die trying to reach Canaries

3rd April 2006, Comments 0 comments

3 April 2006, SANTA CRUZ — Thirty-two would-be migrants trying to reach the Canaries died after the tiny kayak they were sailing in sank off Mauritania.

3 April 2006

SANTA CRUZ — Thirty-two would-be migrants trying to reach the Canaries died after the tiny kayak they were sailing in sank off Mauritania.

The tragedy happened off the coast of Nuadibu, a port in the north of the country, shortly after they set sail for the Canary Islands.

It is the latest in a series of deaths of migrants who attempt the highly dangerous 1,000km journey to Spain's southernmost islands.

Meanwhile, coastguards were searching for about 600 migrants in waters off the El Hierro island, one of the smaller Canary Islands.

Overnight, 89 migrants have reached the Canaries in two kayaks.  

Over the weekend, a group of 35 illegal immigrants aboard a vessel 100 miles from El Hierro were rescued by the coast guard.

Illegal immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa are increasingly opting for a sea route to the Canary Islands since Madrid tightened security last year around Ceuta and Melilla, two Spanish enclaves in North Africa that were being used as a bridge into Europe.

In recent months, an unprecedented wave of illegal immigration has brought thousands of Africans to the Canaries and, according to the Red Crescent of Mauritania, has left more than 1,200 dead at sea.

Last month, the Spanish government announced what it called an "emergency cooperation plan" with Mauritania to try and stem the flow of thousands of Africans from that country toward the islands.

Madrid offered Mauritania patrol boats to monitor the coasts and aid to set up reception centres for immigrants.

Spain's ambassador to Mauritania, Alejandro Polanco, said that the African nation lacked the means to monitor its 1,000-kilometre (620-mile) coastline to prevent migrants from setting sail.

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 other European destinations.

To make the trip, illegal immigrants crowd into small boats that take to the sea - almost always at night - and not infrequently sink due to the excess weight on board.

Despite the risks of crossing from Africa to Europe by sea, plus heightened vigilance by the authorities, immigrants take advantage of favourable weather conditions and the use of bigger and better vessels.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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