Report discusses the increase in migrants from Africa attempting in 2017 to reach Europe by taking the dangerous route by sea from Morocco to the southern coast of Spain across the Alboran Sea - the Western Mediterranean Route.
From the 1 January - 5 July 2017 6464 migrants had arrived this way in Spain (compared to 1352 during the similar period in 2016), while 110 had perished.
Co-operation between Spain and Morocco has since kept migrant numbers comparatively low on this route. Migrants are also more inclined to depart from Libya because the likelihood of being returned by EU authorities is much lower.
A decade ago, migrants from Morocco to Spain were typically economic ones from Algeria and Morocco, hoping for jobs in Spain, France and Italy. Since then, however, they have increasingly been joined by sub-Saharan Africans, driven northwards by conflicts in Mali, Sudan, South Sudan, Cameroon, Nigeria, Chad and the Central African Republic. In 2015, Syrians accounted for the biggest share of detections on this route.
West Africans reach Morocco or Algeria via two land routes. One follows the West African coastline; the shorter one crosses the Sahara. The coastal route is naturally preferred by migrants leaving Senegal and Mauritania, but also, often, by nationals of countries further afield - such as Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire or Benin - because the Sahara crossing is judged so dangerous.
There are various reasons for the fluctuation of overall numbers on this route. Spain has stepped up coastal patrols, installed the SIVE maritime surveillance system along its southern border and signed bilateral agreements with Mauritania and Senegal. It has also strengthened border checks at the main ports, a significant deterrent for would-be migrants secreting themselves aboard trucks and containers on ferries headed to Almeria and Algeciras – the traditional method of irregular entry. Rising unemployment in Spain, and therefore fewer opportunities for migrant workers, is also thought to be a factor.
Spanish border authorities do not only face challenges from irregular migrants. The western Mediterranean route has also long been a major conduit for drug-smugglers moving cannabis and cocaine towards the lucrative markets of the EU. Evidence suggests that the speedboats traditionally deployed by the smugglers are increasingly being replaced by small planes and helicopters.
The Central Mediterranean Route (mainly Libya to Italy) was by far the major route for migrants attempting to reach Europe in 2017.
|Subject Categories||Justice and Home Affairs|
|Countries / Regions||Eastern Europe, Spain|