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9/30/2008

Coastguard rescues 229 Africans off Canary Islands

Filed under: canary islands,global islands,intra-national — admin @ 5:38 pm

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.

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After the 229 arrivals in Tenerife on Monday on what the media is now calling a ‘supercayuco’ 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 Lucía 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.

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.

7/21/2008

Tragedy as more immigrant boats arrive

The perils that African immigrants face as they try to cross the unforgiving Atlantic have again been highlighted. At least six lost their lives as a boat carrying 59 people tried to reach the Canary Islands last Friday. They were found dead as their boat docked on the Santiago beach in Alajero on La Gomera. The previous Wednesday, 15 immigrants, includng nine children, lost their lives off the Almerica coastline.

The authorities believe there could be as many as 6,000 immigrants waiting to do the crossing in search of a better life despite the treacherous conditions they would have to face. Another cayuco boat carrying 66 immigrants was also intercepted just a short distance from Puerto Colón on Tenerife. Three of the occupants had to be taken to hospital. There were two children among the 66 passengers, as well as three women.
Two days before, a small boat packed with at least 148 African migrants landed on a beach on the south coast.
The flimsy fibreglass vessel arrived at La Tejita beach as windsurfers were preparing to take to the sea. They, and tourists, alerted the police.
The occupants had tried to run inland when spotted but were rounded up and detained. One man, who was dehrydrated and suffering from hypothermia, collapsed on the beach and was taken to hospital.
Guardia Civil sources and several Non-Governmental Organisations have estimated that there are as many as 6,000 people from the Sub-Sahara area who are waiting; 2,000 in Mauritania and 4,000 in Morocco, to find an illegal crossing on a boat to Spain.
The travellers journey starts in countries such as Senegal, Cameroon, Nigeria or Mali, and the longer Mauritanian route is favoured by some as there is no repatriation agreement in place with Spain.

3/25/2008

Climate Change Means Flood of Illegal Immigrants for Europe

The European Union is facing a dramatic influx of “eco-immigrants”—those who leave nations that are suffering drought, food shortages and other effects of climate change, to illegally find work in Europe—says a report by the EU’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, and external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

To prepare for increased immigration, the document suggests boosting the EU’s military in response to the “serious security risks” thought to soon arise due to climate change. The report estimates “there will be millions of environmental migrants by 2020.”

“Europe must expect substantially increased migratory pressure,” the report states. “Populations that already suffer from poor health conditions, unemployment or social exclusion are rendered vulnerable to the effects of climate change, which could amplify or trigger migration within and between nations.”

The document also raises concern that more frequent drought, low crop yields, and flooding could lead to increased unrest in the Middle East and Africa.

Individual nations have already been battling the problem of illegal immigration—especially Spain.

Using canoes, small boats and inflatable mattresses, migrants from North Africa attempt a treacherous 12-day journey to reach the Spanish-controlled Canary Islands. Others try to reach Spain’s enclave on the Strait of Gibraltar, Ceuta, or navigate the Strait to reach the Spanish coast.

In 2006, over 31,000 Africans reached the Canary Islands and an estimated 6,000 disappeared or died, according to a UN report (NY Times). However, it is nearly impossible to determine total deaths, because the number who attempt the voyage is unknown.

Waters along the northwest African coast have been dramatically overfished, leaving families that have fished for generations unable to support themselves. Many sell all their belongings and board canoes to Spain—hoping to find work and new lives.
A Spanish human rights group reported that in 2007 there were 921 confirmed deaths among those attempting to illegally enter Spain. Since the beginning of 2008, nearly 2,100 have arrived on the Spanish coastline, mainly from North Africa (El Mundo).

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