More Africans Risking Deadly Passage to Europe
More refugees from Africa successfully made their way to Spain’s Canary Islands in August than during all of 2005. Thousands are believed to have died making the journey and Europe is expanding its efforts to combat illegal immigration.
Refugees off the coast of Gran Canaria island, in Spain’s Canary Islands
Europeans can fly to the Canary Islands or southern Italy on package holiday deals for as little as a fewl hundred euros. Human traffickers also make similar deals available to illegal African immigrants seeking a better life in the European Union. For â‚¬600 ($768), a smuggler will take you to the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla along Morocco’s coast. And for â‚¬700, they’ll take you as far as Spain’s Canary Islands. Those wanting to go to highly desirable Italy can make the journey from West Africa through Libya and then across the Mediterranean for a steep â‚¬2,000. Unfortunately, many never arrive at their destination after drowning en route during the dangerous trip.
Earlier this month, 50 people died when their boat failed to complete the journey across the Mediterranean to the Italian island of Lampedusa. In Spain, 490 deaths have been confirmed since the beginning of the year — a figure that only represents bodies that have been pulled out of the water. The Red Cross and its Muslim sister organization, the Red Crescent, estimate there have been as many as 3,000 deaths.
Still, a startling number of immigrants have made it to Europe this year — in Lampedusa alone, 10,414 refugees from Africa have landed during the first six months of 2006. More than 18,000 refugees — mostly Africans not carrying any documents — have arrived at the Canary Islands, three times the number for the previous year. Of that number, 5,000 arrived in August alone according to the regional government. The Canary Islands are a favored destination for the migrants because they are located only 112 kilometers from the African coastline.