Sunbathers witnessed the migration drama in the Strait of Gibraltar yesterday as a group of young men landed their packed dinghy on a Spanish beach near Tarifa, then scattered into the surrounding sand dunes and woodland.
The migrants threw their life-jackets overboard as they approached the shore and jumped onto the beach as beachgoers looked on.
They were among scores who tried to cross the Strait of Gibraltar yesterday amid growing concern about the impact of recent massive arrivals on Spain’s overstretched maritime rescue services and coastal communities in southern Spain.
Yesterday alone, Spanish rescue boats picked up over 600 people in the strait, which has become a key crossing point for migrants. They included men, women and children.
José Ignacio Landaluce, the mayor of Algeciras, called for an emergency response from Brussels after opening municipal gymnasiums and facilities to accommodate over 1,600 migrants who reached Spain this week.
He said Algeciras and other towns in the Campo de Gibraltar now faced a challenge similar to that of Lampedusa, the Italian island that has become a stopping point for migrants travelling farther into Europe.
Overall, numbers of migrants reaching Europe are way down from the peak in 2015 – 55,000 migrants have reached the continent’s shores this year, fewer than half the amount the same time last year, according to the U.N. migration agency.
But Spain has recently overtaken Italy as the preferred destination and has seen 17,000 migrants arrive so far this year, twice the number at the same point in 2017, according to Spain’s interior ministry.
Arrivals by sea have risen in recent weeks thanks to calm seas.
More than 600 African migrants forced their way through the heavily fortified border fence separating the Spanish North African enclave of Ceuta from Morocco on Thursday, using circular saws, shears and mallets to cut through the wire.