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Last Updated: Friday, 15 September 2006, 16:45 GMT 17:45 UK
Spain deports Senegalese migrants
Migrants are led onto a plane to be deported to Senegal from the Canary Islands
Spain plans to deport about 1,000 illegal African migrants
About 50 illegal Senegalese migrants have been flown home from the Spanish Canary Islands amid tight security.

They are the first to be expelled from Spain since Senegal agreed to the resumption of a repatriation programme.

The migrants arrived in the coastal Senegalese city of Saint-Louis, 320km (200 miles) north of the capital Dakar.

Spain says it cannot cope with the influx of Africans - about 24,000 have made the often perilous sea crossing to the Canary Islands this year.

It is believed that half of them are Senegalese. Spain recently negotiated a new repatriation agreement with Senegal.

You have tried an adventure, you've returned in difficult conditions but that's life, it's not the end of the world
Ass Sougoufara
Senegalese regional governor
Dakar suspended the original accord after illegal migrants complained that they had been handcuffed on the flight home. This was denied by Spain.

El Pais newspaper reported that about 1,000 Senegalese illegal immigrants were to be expelled.

The repatriation was due to start on Wednesday but Spanish media say the authorities in Senegal refused two flights permission to land "for technical reasons".

On arrival in Saint-Louis on Thursday the migrants were greeted by the regional governor Ass Sougoufara.

"You have tried an adventure, you've returned in difficult conditions but that's life, it's not the end of the world."

Senegalese media reports that the migrants were guarded by about 100 Spanish security officers.

Correspondents say the authorities were keen to avoid any repetition of the violence seen in the last deportation in June.

The deportees were reportedly each given 10,000 CFA francs ($20) before being taken to their homes.

The BBC's Tidiane Sy in Senegal says the authorities there are not commenting on the deportations, as public opinion is strongly opposed to them.

'Humanitarian crisis'

Spain describes the influx of more than 20,000 migrants to the Canary islands in 2006 as a humanitarian crisis.

The Canaries have become a main point of entry for illegal immigrants seeking to reach the EU, following a crackdown on migration to the north African Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in 2005.

The recent surge has prompted the head of the Canaries' government to call the influx Spain's worst humanitarian crisis since the civil war of the 1930s.

The EU's borders agency Frontex launched an operation last month to turn back small boats carrying migrants from Senegal, Cape Verde and Mauritania to the Canary Islands.

But Spain says the operation is not big enough and took too long to get going.

Migrants take to the seas crammed into open wooden boats for a crossing of up to 10 days.

Up to 3,000 of them are believed to have died during the journey.

FRONTEX DEPLOYMENT
map
Mauritania: 4 former Guardia Civil patrol boats, 1 Guardia Civil patrol boat, 1 Guardia Civil helicopter, 1 Customs patrol
Senegal: 1 Italian ship, 1 Italian plane, 1 Guardia Civil patrol boat, 1 Spanish Police helicopter, 3 Senegalese boats, 1 Senegalese plane, 1 Finnish plane due
Cape Verde: 1 Portuguese frigate




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