Madrid has expelled 70 illegal immigrants in an attempt to stem the tide of Africans trying to force their way into Spanish enclaves in Morocco.
In recent weeks thousands have tried to storm Ceuta and Melilla – at least 11 have died, six on Wednesday.
Spanish Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, says famine in sub-Saharan Africa is one of the reasons behind the surge in those trying to make it to Europe.
He is calling on the European Union to make the migrant issue a priority – saying there is an urgent need to take a fresh look at the Mediterranean zone and Africa.
The narrow strait between Morocco and southern Spain has long been a popular route for those seeking to enter Europe illegally.
French interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, supported the international approach while on a visit to Libya where he held talks with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
“If we want to control matters in the Mediterranean, we can only do so with the cooperation of Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Libya,” he said.
The north African states are all magnets for those seeking a better life in Europe.
Many boats packed with would-be immgrants bound for Italy set off from Libyan shores.
A large number are picked up by coastguards and make it no further than a holding centre on the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa. The journey is a perilous one – every year hundreds of lives are lost.