Boy dies as 120 migrants wash up in Spain

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A Moroccan boy died yesterday when a boatload of illegal immigrants crossed the treacherous Strait of Gibraltar to Spain in an attempt to begin new lives.

A Moroccan boy died yesterday when a boatload of illegal immigrants crossed the treacherous Strait of Gibraltar to Spain in an attempt to begin new lives.

More than 120 others, mainly north Africans, who survived the nine-mile crossing were found in the Tarifa area at Spain's southernmost tip. Their journey will probably end in expulsion. Police detained the group, which included 27 women, one of whom was pregnant, and three babies.

Information received early yesterday morning suggested a Moroccan vessel was in distress off the coast of Tarifa, prompting arescue operation. But the vessel reached shore and the skipper, believed to be Moroccan, was detained. Police said they were investigating the death of the boy who was found on a beach near Tarifa, alsthough the circumstances of his death remained unclear.

Tarifa, a mecca for windsurfers and holidaymakers, is the main gateway to Europe for increasing numbers of immigrants from north and sub-Saharan Africa. But the waters are fraught with currents and crosswinds, and the clandestine crossings are frequently made in small fishing trawlers or light inflatable dinghies at the mercy of rough seas.

Passengers are crammed on board, and the boats, which usually arrive at night,dock without lights to foil the Spanish coastguard. Many who have died wereyoung pregnant women. Authorities in Tarifa and Algeciras, which have borne the brunt of the influx, say their local health services are at breaking point. Spain is under mounting pressure from its European partners to tighten patrols and step up identity checks inland.

About half of those caught attempting to enter Spain are Moroccan. Under an agreement between the countries, they must be deported within 24 hours. But large numbers of Nigerians, Senegalese and Sierra Leoneans are usually served with 15-day expulsion orders which allow them to vanish. Last year, the Andalucian authorities detained 7,000 immigrants, 2,000 more than the previous year.

Comments