- At least 15 African migrants, most of which are children died of hunger and thirst aboard an overcrowded boat trying to reach southern Spain, Spanish officials have said today.
The migrants were aboard a small craft that was attempting to make crossing from Africa to Spain. Spanish police said of the 15 reported deaths, at least nine were children, aged from nine months to four years, according to rescued survivors.
The incident is the second this week in which destitute Africans risked their lives to reach Europe's southern gateway in search of work. Earlier in the week at least 14 Nigerian migrants are believed to have drowned when their boat capsised in heavy seas.
A Spanish patrol boat rescued 30 people and recovered one body from the boat Wednesday night off the coast of southern Almeria province, the Interior Ministry office in Almeria said.
Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said Wednesday he was concerned by the rise in recent weeks in arrivals of migrants on Spanish shores on boats from Africa which he linked to sharp rise in the cost of food.
"If the situation is bad in Europe, in Africa it is very bad," he said during an interview with radio Cadena Ser.
The 6m-long rubber yacht carrying to be immigrants from Nigeria, Gambia, Kenya, Senegal and Cameroon had set off from an unknown location on the North African coast, then after weathering a storm, it suffered an engine failure, and the migrants began running out of food and water.
Attempts to make the journey from Africa to Europe increase during the European summer, says Olivia Acosta, a Spain-based spokeswoman for the Red Cross, which has been called upon to assist immigrants after they have arrived.
Survivors who spent five days at sea told Spanish police they had been adrift for four or five days after the boat's motor broke down and that as people died their bodies were thrown overboard.
This latest tragedy comes after some African leaders condemned new European Union policies on illegal immigrants. At a conference on the issue in Dakar on Wednesday, many African representatives spoke harshly about new EU measures that could increase arrests and deportations of migrants.
Senegal's Foreign Minister, Mr Cheikh Tidiane Gadio, said he was surprised by EU initiatives, saying the time has past when Europe decided things on its own and Africa would fall in line to accede its decisions.
Every year, tens of thousands of Africans attempt the sea journey to Europe. In this week alone, approximately 1,000 refugees have managed to reach Greece and Italy.
About 18 000 would-be immigrants coming from Africa were detained in Spanish waters or on land in 2007, less than half the number arrested in 2006. Most of the immigrant boats were intercepted on Gran Canaria Island as well as Almeria and Cadiz provinces on the mainland.
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