A dramatic increase in the number of migrants arriving on Spanish shores means it may soon overtake Greece to become Europe’s second most popular migrant destination.
So far, 8,200 migrants have arrived in the country this year – that’s triple the number compared with this time last year and already more than the total for 2016, according to Organization for Migration (IOM).
While the number of arrivals is much lower than Italy – which has seen more than 96,400 migrants arrive by sea this year – Spain is catching up with Greece, which has had 11,713 migrants arrive so far.
The good weather over the past few weeks seems to have led to a sudden increase in the number of migrants arriving in Spain.
On Wednesday, a dinghy carrying dozens of migrants arrived on a popular tourist beach in Zahara de los Atunes on the coast of Andalusia.
Sunbathers looked on as migrants jumped out of the small craft and ran up the beach after successfully crossing the Strait of Gibraltar. The dinghy’s point of departure was not known.
On the same day, 12 migrants arrived in waters off the Spanish territory of Ceuta in northern Morocco on board jet-skis, with one man drowning before he could be rescued, according to authorities.
On Thursday morning, Spanish coastguards said they had rescued 10 men from sub-Saharan Africa in a rickety boat off Tarifa in southern Spain.
IOM spokesman Joel Millman said he believes that migrants taking the long route towards Italy via the Sahara and Libya – many of whom are from West Africa – are now choosing to take the “safer” coastal route through Morocco.
He also said they were using smaller crafts to cross the short but choppy sea to Spain in the hope of slipping in undetected.
This is a different tactic to many migrants arriving from Libya, who are often packed onto leaky, overloaded boats, with the intention of summoning aid as quickly as possible.
Meanwhile, 29 people were also reported to have died after they were pushed into the sea off Yemen by a people smuggler.
Over 100,000 migrants reached Europe from North Africa and the Middle East from January to June, the overwhelming majority coming by sea, according to the IOM.