Spain Wants To Lead Global Poverty Fight After Latest Migrant Tragedy

Spain vows to lead global poverty fight after latest migrant tragedy

Daniel Silva
Published: Friday, July 11, 2008

MADRID – Spain will lead the global fight against poverty, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero vowed Friday after a third tragedy in less than a week involving destitute Africans trying to enter the country by boat.

“Spain and the Spanish government will head a big global mobilization in support of non-governmental organizations and civil society…so that the challenge of poverty, hunger, desperation, lack of education, sanitation and food basics becomes the main objective of all developed nations,” he said.

Zapatero was speaking at a party meeting in the southern city of Granada just hours after Spanish authorities said at least five men died of thirst and exposure trying to reach the Canary Islands in a crowded boat from Africa.

Four bodies were found in the boat that was carrying 55 men from sub-Saharan Africa which arrived on the island of La Gomera, the second-smallest of the Canary Islands, a spokeswoman for the government said.

Eleven men were taken to hospital, including three who are in serious condition. One died late on Friday in hospital, a local government official said.

Public radio RNE reported that the surviving passengers told rescue workers they had thrown the bodies of “several” others who died during the trip overboard. The boat departed for Spain from Guinea-Bissau, it added.

The passengers got lost during their journey and only arrived at the island by chance, said the director of the Red Cross' emergency services on the archipelago, Juan Antonio Corujo.

“If they had been disoriented for a few more hours, the currents could have dragged them out to the open sea and the tragedy would have been even bigger because they would have disappeared in the Atlantic. Fortunately they hit land,” he told RNE.

The arrival of the boat came just two days after a similar tragedy when police intercepted a rubber dinghy carrying 33 African migrants and the body of a woman who had died on board south of Almeria in southern Spain.

The survivors said they had thrown the bodies of 14 others, including nine children all under the age four, who had died during their crossing from Morocco.

On Monday, 14 migrants from Nigeria died after their boat capsized off the southern coast of the southern Spanish town of Motril just as it was being aided by a rescue ship which managed to save 23 others.

Earlier Friday Zapatero renewed his call for wealthy nations to do more to alleviate poverty in Africa, saying this is the only way to stop Africans from seeking better lives in Europe.

“The situation is becoming increasingly serious and worrying in some sub-Saharan African countries as a result of the food crisis and deepening of extreme poverty,” he said during an official visit to Morocco from where many Africans set off to Spain by boat.

In September 2007 Zapatero promised to raise the amount of development aid which Spain gives out from the equivalent of 0.5 percent of gross domestic product to 0.7 percent by 2012.

His socialist government in January approved 5.5 billion euros (8.6 billion dollars) in international development aid for 2008, a 28.5 percent increase over last year and its highest amount yet.

The world's richest nations agreed to provide 0.7 percent of their output in development aid by 2015 as part of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, a series of targets aimed at reducing poverty and living standards around the globe.

Only five nations have so far met or surpassed the target: Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.

A total of 921 would-be illegal immigrants died at sea trying to reach Spain last year, according to a tally by the Organisation for Human Rights in Andalusia, a Spanish humanitarian group.