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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 February 2007, 15:46 GMT
Mauritania food aid for migrants
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A boat has delivered food and water to a ship carrying migrants, anchored off the coast of Mauritania, officials say.

The 1,200kg of biscuits, bread and cheese was organised by the Spanish Red Cross and Mauritanian Red Crescent, who say the 400 migrants need more food.

The boat is being pummelled by 5m-high waves, an aid worker said.

Mauritania is still refusing to let the ship dock, after it broke down in international waters and was towed close to shore by a Spanish boat.

Long journey

The migrants told the Mauritanian Red Crescent by radio they came from Kashmir and unnamed African countries.

They did not say if they were from Pakistani- or Indian-administered Kashmir.

As shipwrecked people, they must be landed in Mauritania and repatriated from Mauritania
Spanish foreign ministry spokesman
"We have not been able to board the ship and see for ourselves but they say there are no women or children on board," Ahmedou Ould Haye from the Mauritanian Red Crescent told BBC News.

Olga Martinez from the Spanish Red Cross said that some of the migrants had not had anything to eat for several days but that another boat would take more food soon.

She said the boat had left the Guinea capital, Conakry, presumably on its way to Europe.

She said it was not unusual for Asian migrants to travel to Africa en route for Europe.

'Danger'

The Geneva-based International Organization for Migration (IOM) has urged foreign governments to assist those on board the ship.

"You can't leave people in a situation of danger... those who have the means to help should do so. A decision needs to be taken," Armand Rousselot, IOM representative for West and Central Africa, told Reuters news agency.

The Mauritanian and Spanish governments are negotiating about what should be done with the ship and its passengers.

"As shipwrecked people, they must be landed in Mauritania and repatriated from Mauritania," a Spanish Foreign Ministry spokesman said, reports the Reuters news agency.

"We want to find a solution based on law."

The Mauritanian foreign ministry had said the ship was carrying some 200 Pakistani nationals.

It was reached by a Spanish vessel on Saturday and towed to within 12km (7.5 miles) of Nouadhibou port.

Canary route

"Mauritania has nothing to do with this boat breaking down, nor with taking charge of those on board," said a foreign ministry statement on Monday.

Neighbouring Senegal has also said it could not handle the ship.

Senegal and Mauritania are launching points for tens of thousands of African migrants looking to reach Europe, many via the Canary Islands.

About 30,000 Africans were caught trying to reach the Spanish island chain last year.

EU patrols are now trying to stem the flow of immigrants.


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