Spain/Africa: Three-fold increase in dinghy deaths as the EU border moves south (1)

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- "the number sarriving and dying are rising"

For the fifth year running, figures concerning verified deaths of migrants attempting the crossing from Africa to Spain have increased substantially, to 1,167 (up from 369 in 2005), although the Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos de Andalucía (APDHA) estimates in its annual report that the real figure for 2006 may be closer to 7,000. The number of arrests also increased almost four-fold, bearing witness to the failure of EU policies to stem the flow of people seeking to migrate, from 11,781 to 47,102. The APDHA report views this as inevitable due to the proximity of southern Europe and Spain to northern Africa and the huge gap in wealth and opportunities between Europe and Africa. It highlights economic conditions, human rights violations and situations of conflict and repression that lead people to try their luck by attempting to emigrate from Africa to Europe. In spite of a growing expenditure on border control infrastructure and the deployment of personnel and equipment, and consecutive plans that set out to neutralise migration, the numbers arriving (and dying) are rising as EU border policy moves south down the west coast of Africa.

While more arrests had been carried out in 2005 year on the southern border including Ceuta and Melilla than in the Canary islands (7,066 compared with 4,715), in 2006 the number of arrests in the archipelago rose to 33,126 and that in the Strait of Gibraltar region fell marginally to 6,976, with around 7,000 arrested on the African continent, either in FRONTEX operations or by the law enforcement agencies or navies of Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal and Cape Verde. 10,635 migrants were repatriated up to 30 October, almost half of whom were deported to Morocco (4,909, of whom 3,891 through the land border in Melilla), with Senegalese nationals representing the second largest group with similar figures (4,863).

The cost of expulsions for the Spanish state from April 2004 to October 2006 amounted to over 45m Euros, with steadily rising allocations allocated in successive public administration budgets. The APDHA report details some side-effects of this policy of large-scale expulsions, including: a) the building of a detention centre financed by the EU in Nouadhibou (Mauritania) in April 2006 with a capacity for up to 250 people, in which overcrowding is frequent and unhygienic conditions prevail, according to Red Crescent staff; b) large-scale expulsions carried out without guaranteeing due process and guarantees, violating the fourth protocol of the European Convention of Human Rights that forbids the mass expulsion of migrants, and without guarantees that migrants will be expelled to their real country of origin or will not suffer torture or ill-treatment on arrival, including abandonment, as notoriously happened in Morocco; c) the conditions under which expulsions take place, that have drawn criticism from both police unions and migrants, and led Senegalese authorities to demand that expulsions be carried out while respecting human rights after the first group of 99 deportees arrived in Dakar, handcuffed for hours and without knowing where they were going.

The report outlines developments in immigration policy, by both the Spanish authorities and the EU through operations managed by FRONTEX, the EU agency for the management of operative cooperation at its external borders, and through diplomatic missions seeking to secure repatriation agreements and cooperation in fighting immigration from countries of origin or transit. The response to the "cayuco" (larger wooden boats than was previously the case in the Strait of Gibraltar, where dinghies were prevalent) crisis has been to press forward with the same plan, namely the deployment of human, technological and mobile resources (patrol boats and helicopters) and equipment, including the navy, to monitor the sea border, intense diplomatic activities at both a national (new readmission agreements<

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