Page last updated at 01:28 GMT, Sunday, 17 January 2010

Spain sees sharp drop in migrants from Africa

Migrants after arriving on Tenerife (29 March 2009)
The Canary Islands have often been the point of entry for migrants

Spain says the number of migrants coming to the country by sea from Africa fell by almost half in 2009.

Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said 7,285 such migrants arrived in Spain last year, compared with 13,425 in 2008.

The number reaching the Canary Islands was the lowest in a decade, he said.

Mr Rubalcaba attributed the change to security measures, repatriations and co-operation with African nations, and not to the recession in Europe.

"The [financial] crisis has had an effect on illegal immigration from Latin America, but the drop in the numbers of small boats [from Africa] is above all due to the work of the police, to the repatriations and the co-operation with countries of origin such as Algeria, Mauritania, Senegal and Mali," he said.

The number of those arriving in the Canary Islands stood at 2,246 last year, down from 9,181 in 2008, he said.

In recent years, the route between West Africa and the Canary Islands has been one of the most popular for migrants trying to reach the EU from Africa.

The journey is often attempted in ill-equipped boats provided by smugglers, and migrants frequently drown at sea.

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