Spain Sees More Migrants Since Mauritania Coup

Spain sees more immigrants since Mauritania coup

Agence France Presse
Aug 11, 2008

LOS CRISTIANOS, Spain (AFP) The number of illegal immigrants traveling to Spain's Canary Islands has increased sharply since last week's coup in Mauritania, a rescue official said Monday.

Spanish authorities intercepted a boatload of 61 migrants off the island of Tenerife, bringing to 333 the number who have reached the Canaries, off northwest Africa's Atlantic coast, since Friday, according to an AFP count.

The fresh wave of illegal immigrants began just two days after the coup in the northwest African country, an official of the Spanish rescue services said, requesting anonymity.

He said analyses of GPS systems on board the immigrants' boats indicates that they came from Mauritania, one of the main transit countries used by sub-Saharan migrants seeking to reach Spain.

Last week troops led by General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, the former head of the presidential guard, overthrew Mauritania's first democratically elected president Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, after he tried to sack senior military officers.

The Canary Islands have been a magnet in recent years for African migrants aspiring to reach Europe.

Authorities fear many of the thousands of Africans who make the perilous journey towards Spanish soil each year die of thirst, hunger or exposure, but there is no way of knowing exactly how many have perished.

Spain has worked with other European Union nations to increase air and sea patrols and it has signed repatriation agreements with several African nations that have made it easier to send back clandestine migrants.

During the first seven months of this year, 7,165 migrants reached Spain by boat, a 9.1 percent drop over the same period last year, and a 58.9 percent decline over 2006, the interior ministry said Friday.