Coastguards have rescued 229 Africans trying to reach the Canary Islands by boat, the biggest group intercepted in a single vessel off the Spanish archipelago, a government official said Tuesday.
Coastguards found the 30-metre (100-foot) fishing boat late Monday about 100 km (60 miles) south of Gran Canaria and took the would-be immigrants to the port of Los Cristianos in Tenerife, arriving just after midnight.
All the Africans were male, including at least 20 children, a spokeswoman for Spain’s emergency services said.
“Such a large fishing boat could not have set off from the shore directly into the sea,” Juan Antonio Corujo of the Spanish Red Cross told national radio.
“This boat must have been loaded from a pier or probably smaller boats took people to the boat once it was at sea.”
The Red Cross treated the boat’s occupants in Tenerife and five were taken to health centres for treatment for dehydration and hypothermia.
Tuesday, a second boat carrying almost 100 people washed up on the beach of Pozo Izquierdo on Gran Canaria, where residents, emergency services and the Red Cross gave assistance to the occupants.
Dozens of Africans have died in the past few months trying to take advantage of calmer summer weather to make the journey to the Canary Islands and the Spanish mainland to find jobs in Europe.
Tens of thousands have reached Spanish shores in recent years, prompting Spain’s Socialist government to toughen its line on illegal immigration.
Thousands more are believed to have drowned or died of thirst or exposure in the attempt.
According to Spain’s Interior Ministry, between January and August the number of illegal immigrants reaching the Spanish coast by boat fell 8 percent compared with a year earlier and was down 64 percent on 2006.
After the 229 arrivals in Tenerife on Monday on what the media is now calling a â€˜supercayucoâ€™ boat, yesterday saw the arrival of another 100 immigrants. This time they are all Moroccan males and in good health. They arrived at the port of Pozo Izquierdo in Santa LucÃa de Tirajana, on Gran Canaria yesterday afternoon and now face identification and repatriation.
The leader of the Red Cross rescue groups on the Canaries, Juan Antonio Corujo, said that they had never seen so many immigrants packed onto one boat as the 229 which arrived on Monday. The so-called super-Cayuco boat was 30 metres long.