Increase in immigrants to Spain

The Spanish government says that more than 11,000 would-be immigrants have made the perilous trip to the Canary Islands from Africa so far this year.

    Spain has intercepted four boats in 24 hours

    The figure already doubles the total for the whole of 2005.

    Spain said on Saturday that its coast guard had intercepted four boats carrying 248 would-be immigrants from West Africa in 24 hours and had sighted another.

    The interior ministry said that a boat with 90 people on board had arrived in Tenerife while another carrying 61 reached La Gomera on Saturday.

    On Friday two other boats from West Africa made it to Gran Canaria. One of the boats was carrying a man who had died during the journey.

    Dangerous journey

    Thousands of people try to reach Europe from Africa each year but many die during the journey.  

    More than 1,000 are thought to have died attempting the journey since late last year.

    Some of those who arrived in the past two days were suffering from dehydration or hypothermia and 12 were taken to hospital.

    Sent back

    Of those who do make it across, most are intercepted before landing and kept in holding centres. The authorities then have 40 days in which to send them home or release them.

    Those who can be identified from official identity documents are sent back to their country of origin or to the country from which they set sail, if Spain has a repatriation agreement with it.

    After a big wave of arrivals in the Canary Islands in May, Spain elicited a promise from the European Union to send boats and planes to help patrol waters off the islands and to deter Africans from traveling there.

    Southern Italy

    More than 60 migrants also landed on the Italian island of Lampedusa on Saturday, maritime authorities said, bringing to more than 400 the number to have landed on the shores of southern Italy this week.

    In 2005 Italian authorities intercepted 207 vessels carrying a total of almost 22,000 people off Italy's coast. Seventy bodies were recovered during the same period.



    SOURCE: Agencies


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