Spain rescues 600 people at sea in busiest day

Spanish coastguards have rescued nearly 600 people from 15 boats and a jet ski in the waters between Morocco and Spain

17 August 2017, 8:20am
The route between Morocco and Spain is increasingly used by migrants trying to reach Europe (File photo)
The route between Morocco and Spain is increasingly used by migrants trying to reach Europe (File photo)
Spain's coastguard says it has rescued just under 600 migrants crossing from Morocco in a 24-hour period amid a spike in the number of migrant arrivals.

A coastguard spokesman said 599 people had been rescued since the early hours of yesterday morning, a large number for just one day in Spain.

The rescued migrants were in 15 vessels including toy paddleboats and a jet ski and included 35 children and a baby.

"The high number of boats coming to the Spanish coast this summer is unusual," a spokeswoman for Spain's coastguards said, adding that there were three times as many as in the same period last year.

The route between Morocco and Spain is increasingly used by migrants trying to reach Europe.

According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), 8,385 migrants had arrived in Spain this year by 9 August.

The number of migrants arriving in Spain by sea does not include those entering the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in north Africa, which are the EU's only land borders with Africa.

The increase in crossings means Spain could overtake Greece this year in the number of migrants arriving by sea, IOM said earlier this month.

More than 120 people are believed to have drowned attempting the crossing.

Most are sailing across the 12km Strait of Gibraltar and many are choosing cheap, child-sized paddle boats without motors that allow them to bypass people smuggling networks and their fees.

However, a much larger number - nearly 100,000 - have crossed from Libya to Italy since the start of the year. In June, about 5,000 people were rescued in just one day in the Mediterranean Sea off Libya, Italian coastguards said. The IOM said 2,242 people have died on that route.