Spain urges Brussels to help with influx of migrants from Africa

Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, Spain's Deputy Prime Minister, went to Brussels seeking an aid package and practical help, including the deployment of migration experts to advise its border guards on how to deal with the migrants arriving in the Canary Islands.

Some 7,400 illegal migrants, mainly from central and sub-Saharan Africa, have arrived in the Canaries this year, prompting regional MPs to ask Madrid to take action to stem the "immigration avalanche" by sending the migrants home. A record 647 migrants landed last Thursday, overwhelming local services.

But although the Canary Islands are recording the highest number of illegal migrants reaching Europe in recent months, boatloads are also still heading for Europe's Mediterranean islands. A total of 850 people have washed up on the Italian island of Lampedusa since the weekend, including migrants from Lebanon and Iraq. Malta, Cyprus and Greece are also struggling to cope with the influx which shows no signs of abating despite measures agreed with such countries as Libya and Morocco. The EU has already stepped up co-operation and co-ordination to include resources such as planes, boats and reception centres for migrants.

Many migrants do not survive the long and perilous journeys. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) yesterday opened a two-day "rescue at sea" conference with the International Maritime Organisation in Madrid to consider co-operation between Mediterranean states.

Most of the people who risk their lives by taking to the sea are economic migrants, but the UN fears that genuine refugees could be forcibly expelled by governments in mass deportations. William Spindler, a UNHCR spokesman, said that although the number of refugees was not known, "refugees are being turned back. There are fears that Europe is failing in its international obligations."

"As the European governments concentrate their efforts on keeping people out - we say, 'be careful'," said Mr Spindler. Amnesty International voiced similar concerns. "You can't confuse not having documents with not having human rights," Amnesty's Esteban Beltran said in Madrid.

A spokesman for Franco Frattini, the EU commissioner for justice and interior affairs, said the EU would look into providing financial help and experts, but stressed Spain was not alone in dealing with migration influxes.

"We need to address the root causes of forced migration, which will not happen overnight," he said.

EU countries say the root cause of poverty is the main reason why so many from the poorest countries of Africa try to flee to Europe, and have agreed to boost aid to the continent.

Mr Frattini has called for EU governments to back plans for an emergency EU fund for quick responses to the mass flows of migrants, as well as setting up a permanent plan for European patrols in the Mediterranean to intercept illegal migrants.

Spain hopes that new embassies in Mali, Sudan and the Cape Verde Islands could channel aid and encourage migrants to stay at home.

The UN Assistant High Commissioner for Refugee Protection, Erika Feller, is to fly to the Canary Islands tomorrow. She discussed the scale of the problem with authorities last week in Mauritania, from where many of the African migrants set sail.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions