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Last Updated: Monday, 12 February 2007, 19:19 GMT
Migrant ship docks in Mauritania
The Marine 1 carrying migrants
The ship's engine failed in international waters (Photo: IOM)
Hundreds of Asian and African migrants have disembarked from their ship in the Mauritanian port of Nouadhibou, after being stranded at sea for a week.

The stricken vessel was given clearance to dock after Spain, the migrants' intended destination, agreed to pay for their medical treatment and travel.

Doctors were despatched to the Marine 1 while it was still at sea, amid concern for the migrants' well-being.

Some 40 of the about 400 migrants are in poor health, the Red Cross says.

The ship broke down in international waters last week and was towed close to shore by a Spanish boat.

Since then, it had since been waiting for clearance to dock, with Mauritania insisting that medical facilities had to be ready first.

Identity checks

Under the terms of the agreement, the sick and vulnerable were to be treated in Mauritania, while Spain would arrange the repatriation of the rest of the migrants from Asia and Africa.

About 10% of them are not in good health
Olivia Acosta, Spanish Red Cross

A spokeswoman for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) told the BBC that those in the worst state of health had been taken off the boat for medical assistance early on Monday afternoon.

Most are thought to be suffering from dehydration and fatigue.

By about 6pm local time, the majority of the migrants had disembarked, a Mauritanian Red Cross official said. They were given health checks and food and drink in a makeshift Red Cross treatment centre.

"About 10% of them are not in good health, but there are no very serious cases," Olivia Acosta, of the Spanish Red Cross, told the BBC.

After health screening, the migrants were passed to Spanish police officers for identity screening.

If their identity can be established, they are expected to be returned to their country of origin. If not, they will be taken to Spanish territory, where their immigration status will be decided, diplomats told Reuters news agency.

Consular officials from India, Pakistan and Guinea were also at the docks to meet the migrants.

EU patrols

Nouadhibou Governor Mohamed Yahya Ould Mohamed Vall said that three planes had arrived to transport the migrants back to their countries of origin.

The migrants are believed to have set sail from Guinea and to have been trying to reach Spain's Canary Islands in the Atlantic.

Some of them are thought to come from Kashmir, but it is not known whether they are from Pakistan- or India-administered Kashmir.

About 30,000 Africans were caught trying to reach the Canary Islands last year.

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


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