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Spain rescues over 200 migrants at sea

Updated July 30, 2018

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MADRID: Spain said it had plucked more than 200 migrants from the Mediterranean Sea on Sunday as the country’s interior minister headed to Mauritania to try to boost cooperation in the fight against illegal immigration.

Spain’s maritime rescue service saved 211 migrants from 21 different boats in the Strait of Gibraltar which separates Spain from Morocco, a spokesman for the service said. They will be taken to the port of Algeciras in southwestern Spain, he added. The latest arrivals come after the rescue service picked up more than 1,200 people attempting the perilous crossing from Morocco to Spain, which has now surpassed Italy as the number one destination for migrants crossing the Mediterranean by boat.

Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska will meet on Monday with his Mauritanian counterpart in Nouakchott, the capital of the West African country, to “strengthen cooperation in migration matters and the fight against terrorism”, Spain’s interior ministry said in a statement.

During a fact-finding visit to Algeciras on Saturday to learn how police and the Red Cross were coping with the influx of migrants, Grande-Marlaska said it was “a European problem which requires a European solution”.

The minister said the government was working against the clock to open “a centre” in the port of Andalusia with room for 600 people.

As a crackdown by Libyan authorities has made it more difficult for migrants to reach Italy, many are attempting the trip from Algeria and Morocco into Spain.

More than 19,580 people have landed on Spanish shores so far this year, according to the International Organisation for Migration. Six people including three babies died on Sunday when an inflatable boat carrying 16 people capsized off the coast of western Turkey, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Nine people were rescued by the coast guard overnight, it said, adding that search and rescue efforts were continuing for one missing person after the incident off the coastal province of Ayvalik.

The boat was believed to be en route to Greece’s Lesbos island which is around 20 km (12 miles) away from the Turkish coast, it said.

From January to July this year at least 54 irregular migrants died trying to cross to Europe from Turkey, according to coast guard statistics.

According to a local official, the people who were trying to cross to the Greek island were Turkish citizens and two of them are believed to be illegal crossing organisers, Anadolu reported.

Published in Dawn, July 30th, 2018