Spanish and Italian aircraft and boats working with the European External Border Control Agency Frontex have been intercepting would-be illegal immigrants heading for EU territory. Patrolling off Senegal, in an operation called Hera II, started last Friday, to prevent boats known as Cayucos setting out from the west coast of Africa landing on Spain’s Canary Islands. The Frontex deployment in Senegal was delayed due to the lack of an agreement with the government. At least one Senegalese official must be on board any European vessel, as only they have the authority to stop and return the Cayucos inside Senegalese territorial waters. Normally, Senegalese boats escort the migrants inshore, start the legal procedure and try to arrest the people that were paid for organising the journey.
More than 23,000 Africans have made it to the Canaries so far this year, about five times the number in all of last year. Experts from Italy, Portugal, France and Germany are working in Tenerife on identification of the illegal migrants, with the aim of sending them back to their own countries.