Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The European Union will deploy boats and aircraft to help stem migrant flows from Africa to Spain's Canary Islands

BBC News:

Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini said the patrols, co-ordinated by the EU border security agency Frontex, would go as far as Gambia and Senegal.

Senegal's foreign minister told the BBC that officials would visit the Canary Islands, where 1,500 people have landed in a week, to return any Senegalese.

At the weekend, Senegalese authorities halted 1,500 migrants sailing to Spain.

A Senegalese official said the country had become a major departure point for African migrants heading for Europe after crackdowns in Morocco and Mauritania.

The EU's promise came in response to a plea for assistance from Spanish deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega.

She said the EU would help set up reception centres in Mauritania and Senegal for migrants refused entrance, and would improve information gathering on criminal gangs involved in human trafficking in West Africa.

Some 7,500 migrants have arrived in the Canary Islands this year, five times more than in the same period last year.

A thousand more are believed to have died making the crossing in small fishing boats.

On Wednesday 110 people arrived on the island of Gomera, following the arrival of 150 people in Tenerife on Tuesday. A record 647 migrants landed last Thursday.

Spanish envoy Miguel Angel Fernandez Mazarambroz is touring West Africa, trying to persuade African governments to sign deals making it easier to deport migrants.

Senegal's foreign minister Cheikh Tidiane Gadio told the BBC's Network Africa that they had not signed a repatriation deal in their meeting on Tuesday, but would repatriate their own nationals found in the Canary Islands.

"We will send a mission to Spain to the Canary Islands and we will see those young men and women... and if they are Senegalese we will assist them and the best way to assist them is to help them come back home."

An international meeting is being planned in early June in Dakar to discuss migration, he added.

EU delays 'asylum-shopper' curbs

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