brad brace

9/4/2008

African migrants die on route to Spain’s Canary Islands

Filed under: canary islands,global islands,intra-national — admin @ 4:32 am

Fourteen African migrants died, mostly of hypothermia, trying to reach Spain’s Canary Islands by boat after they became lost at sea several times, local officials said Wednesday.

The wooden fishing boat carrying 46 passengers and the bodies of 13 others was spotted by a police patrol boat in the early hours of Wednesday which escorted it to the port of Arguineguin on the island of Gran Canaria, a spokesman for the regional government said.

Later, the body of an African man was found not far from the area where the ship was first spotted and “everything indicates” that the deceased has been on the vessel.

“We believe they had a very difficult crossing, they may have been at sea for eight to 12 days and they got lost several times and the motor broke down,” said the head of the Red Cross in Las Palmas, the capital of the Canaries.

“They spent much time adrift, most people died from hypothermia,” he told public radio RNE.

Four of the 46 migrants were taken to hospital while 10 others were treated by the Red Cross at the port after they disembarked from the fishing boat.

The archipelago off the Atlantic coast of northwest Africa has been a magnet in recent years for African migrants aspiring to reach Europe.

Migrants traditionally attempted to cross the Strait of Gibraltar to get to the Spanish mainland but a crackdown there has led traffickers to increasingly use longer and more dangerous routes, including to the Canary Islands.

Authorities fear many of the thousands of Africans who attempt the perilous journey to Spanish soil each year die of thirst, hunger or exposure, although there is no way of knowing the exact numbers.

A Spanish humanitarian group, the Organisation for Human Rights in Andalusia (APDH-A), estimates a total of 921 would-be illegal immigrants have died at sea from thirst, hunger or exposure, or in boat accidents, as they tried to reach Spain.

Spain has worked with other European Union nations to increase air and sea patrols and it has signed repatriation agreements with several African nations that have made it easier to send back clandestine migrants.

During the first seven months of this year, 7,165 migrants reached Spain by boat, a nine percent drop on the same period last year, and a decline of nearly 60 percent on 2006, according to interior ministry figures.

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