Spain has launched a diplomatic offensive to stem the flow of illegal immigrants who have been risking their lives making the dangerous crossing from West Africa to the Canary islands.
So far this year 7,000 migrants, more than five times the number over the same period last year, have arrived in the islands which they see as a launchpad to finding work in Europe.
As Spain’s deputy prime minister Maria Teresa Fernandes de la Vega noted: “We are a first-world country bordering the third world. Just a few miles away there lies the poorest, impoverished continent, forgotten and neglected.”
Madrid is opening embassies in three African capitals – in Mali, Cap Verde and Sudan – and new missions in several others, particularly in West Africa.
Roughly one in five of the migrants who set out from the coasts of Mauritania and Senegal in small wooden boats drowns, according to the Red Cross.
With its three-year Africa Plan, Spain aims to improve aid to the poorer African countries and persuade sub-Saharan countries to accept more deportees.
It also wants more European aid to these countries, arguing that if there were more work opportunities at home, Africans would have less incentive to leave.