Immigrants risk their lives to reach Spain

IN March, more than 160 immigrants attempted to enter Spain by crossing the Strait of Gibraltar, most of them on inflatable toy boats.

Out of the 20 boats carrying illegal immigrants which were rescued by lifeguards and Guardia Civil, 17 were just blow-up toys, the Spanish press reports. In many cases, there were up to seven people on a boat made for two.

This is a much more dangerous option than coming on boats organised by mafias and packed full of North African or sub-Saharan immigrants, but it is also cheaper, at just €100 per person.

A place on one of the boats costs €1,000 per person and offers no guarantees that they will reach Spain either.

Part of the €100 paid goes to the Moroccan citizens who show them the areas from which they can set out to sea. Some are forced to turn back almost immediately, others are lost at sea.

Rescue operations are also more complicated and dangerous, the Guardia Civil complain, because the ships they use were only meant to patrol the waters in search of drug smugglers.

Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry is also concerned about the fence which separates North Africa and the Spanish enclave of Melilla. Guardia Civil complain that those attempting to get over the fence have become more aggressive, and whereas before they came in groups of between 10 and 30 people, there can now at times be up to 500 at once.

They report that when Morocco lets its guard down, there are several attempts every day at several points along the fence.

This shows that despite the financial crisis, Spain is still an attractive destination for those seeking a better life, even if it is just the first step of a journey to another European country.

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