A wave of illegal African migration to Spain has provoked Madrid into sending a top-level delegation to Mauritania. Secretaries of State for foreign affairs and security have met with their counterparts in an effort to stem the tide. The discovery of 18 bodies off the coast of Spain’s Canary islands by a fishing vessel on Wednesday was the latest incident to alarm the Spanish government.
Since Saturday more than 900 immigrants have reached the islands using Mauritania’s Atlantic coast as a staging ground for entry into Europe. It is thought a crack down on more established routes through Morocco has forced would-be migrants to undertake the perilous journey. Since the beginning of this year more than 3,500 immigrants without documents have arrived in the Canaries. The Red cross estimates that more than a thousand others have died in the attempt. While Spain has offered the Mauritanian authorities patrol boats and help with the setting up of reception centres, Madrid says it is committed to protecting the rights of genuine refugees.