14 migrants die off Spanish coast

Fourteen migrants, including nine small children, died on a boat that was intercepted by the maritime police off the Spanish province of Almeria, a sad reminder of the fate that awaits many illegal immigrants who try to reach Europe by sea.


Fourteen migrants, including nine small children, died on board a boat that was heading for southern Spain from north Africa, Spanish national radio said Thursday, quoting survivors.

It said a police maritime patrol intercepted the boat during the night off the province of Almeria with 35 survivors on board, including three pregnant women.

The survivors reported that 14 others had died during the voyage, nine of them children between 12 months and four years, the radio said.

The Europa Press news agency said 15 people had died, including one woman whose body was found on the boat.

Police are questioning the survivors to determine what happened to the 14 others who died, although they assume that their bodies were thrown overboard, the agency said.

It said the survivors, including a baby, were in a poor state of health when they arrived on shore.

A total of 921 would-be illegal immigrants died at sea trying to reach Spain in 2007, according to a tally by the Organisation for Human Rights in Andalusia (APDH-A), a Spanish human rights organisation.

Of these, 732 perished close to the western coast of north Africa at the start of their journey and 189 near the coasts of Spain, it said.

The majority, 629, were from sub-Saharan Africa, 287 were from north Africa and five were Asians.

Spain has been a magnet in recent years for African migrants aspiring to reach Europe, most of them heading for the Canary Islands archipelago off the northwest coast of Africa.

Increased air and sea patrols and repatriation agreements signed by Spain with several African countries that make it easier to send back clandestine migrants have meant the numbers sharply declined last year.

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