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Spain intercepts boats carrying immigrants

12 August 2013, 16:46

Algeciras - A Spanish maritime safety agency on Monday intercepted nine inflatable toy boats carrying 59 African migrants, officials said.

That brought the number of migrants rescued from boats trying to cross from Africa to Spain to nearly 200 since the weekend.

The Africans rescued on Monday included several women, two of whom were pregnant. Their countries of origin were not immediately known.

The migrants were trying to cross the 13km stretch of water separating Spain from Morocco at the Strait of Gibraltar. They got caught in strong winds and called the Maritime Safety Agency, which is in charge of maritime traffic control and rescue operations.

Spain's economic crisis had discouraged potential Africans migrants in recent years. But the number of incoming boats went up again in 2012, with the Red Cross attending to more than 1 000 Africans in the coastal city of Tarifa.

Experts attribute the increase to the arrival in Morocco of small groups buying toy boats which allow them to embark on the crossing on their own, without having to pay smugglers who use sturdier vessels.

Migrants "take ever greater risks", said Ivan Lima from the Red Cross.

Hundreds of migrants are believed to have drowned or died from dehydration or exposure when trying to make the crossing to Spain in recent years.



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