The Spanish coastguard announced on Thursday that it had rescued 208 migrants crossing from Africa to Spain. The coastguard indicated that the migrants were found on Wednesday afternoon in three rafts in the Alboran Sea, an area east of the Strait of Gibraltar.
The area is one of the most common routes for crossing to Europe from North Africa. They were taken to temporary handling facilities in Almeria and Malaga in Spain.
The rescue comes on the heels of a standoff earlier in the month with Italian authorities regarding rescued migrants. Italy refused to allow more than 80 migrants to disembark from a rescue ship run by a Spanish aid group. Consequently, the migrants spent 19 days onboard the ship amidst worsening conditions as EU countries debated how to handle the issue. Under an EU deal, Spain, Portugal, Germany, France and Luxembourg will be sharing out the migrants to end the standoff. Spain is preparing for the arrival of 15 migrants - its share - on a Spanish warship from an Italian port.
A senior Spanish official Carmen Calvo, the government's deputy prime minister, renewed a plea for EU countries to set aside their differences on the divisive immigration issue.
Calvo said the EU needs to agree on a formula for safe arrivals at ports and co-responsibility of (EU) countries. She told the Spanish parliament that EU countries without a maritime border must share the burden of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea to the continent from North Africa. Calvo's comments were about the political and humanitarian stalemate with Italy.
According to data from the Interior Ministry, about 18,018 migrants have arrived in Spain so far by August 2019, a 39% decrease from the same period last year. UN data shows irregular sea arrivals from the Middle East and North Africa to EU dropped from over 1 million in 2015 to 141,500 in 2018 with nearly 15,000 people estimated to have died or gone missing during the sea crossing.
The decrease in the number of migrants making the dangerous journey can be attributed to Spain and the EU increasing police cooperation with Moroccan authorities.
Header Image Credit: Reuters