“Spain does not accept, nor will it accept, clandestine or illegal immigration,” Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the prime minister told the Spanish radio station Cadena Ser on Wednesday.
A record-breaking 930 would-be immigrants landed in the Canaries from West Africa in just over 24 hours up to Wednesday morning, the islands’ emergency services said.
By comparison 4,751 immigrants arrived by boat in the Canaries in the whole of 2005.
“This is simply because it’s not immigration, it’s cheating legal migrants, working people and the normal rules of co-existence,” Zapatero said.
The regional president of the islands off the northwest coast of Africa has said that Spain is facing disaster.
“This is Spain’s worst humanitarian crisis since the civil war [in the 1930s],” said Adan Martin, president of the Canaries’ regional government.
Thousands of would-be migrants
Spain’s socialist government has asked the European Union for help to solve the problem and has told African countries such as Senegal that it is tired of their lack of co-operation in accepting repatriated citizens.
Spain wants more aid from the EU for policing the seas and wants a European policy on marine patrols.
Almost all Africans who arrive in the Canaries illegally refuse to reveal their nationality in order to avoid repatriation. They are flown to mainland Spain and released after being given a piece of paper requesting they leave the country.
The EU has said it may offer to send personnel to help Libya patrol its internal borders to stop illegal migrants crossing the country to get to Europe, the EU Commissioner in charge of immigration policy said after criticisms from the north African country.
Abdulati Alobidi, Libya’s European affairs minister, told two Italian newspapers that Europe put too much emphasis on trying to stop immigrants as they cross the Mediterranean Sea and called for helicopters and off-road vehicles to stop the traffic from sub-Saharan Africa.
Libya has 4,000km of land borders, Alobidi said, and needed help from Europe to stop the flow of migrants from poverty stricken countries south of the Sahara desert.
The EU’s border security agency Frontex is due to start a patrol of the Mediterranean later this month.
Alobidi said it was “unacceptable” that the EU had decided to launch the patrol without consulting Libya.