ALMERIA continues to be a preferred landfall for the people-trafficking mafias. Four out of every 10 emergency operations in the waters off the Andalucia coast during the first half of this year were carried out and coordinated from the Almeria’s Centro de Coordinacion de Salvamento Maritimo.
Put another way, Almeria’s marine rescue service went out 45 times between January and July and saved 1,077 immigrants trying to reach the coast in the unseaworthy boats known as pateras. These callouts were 63 per cent higher than during the same period last year.
One of the biggest rescue operations occurred in June when the Centre coordinated the rescue of 99 people aboard two boats found drifting 50 nautical miles (92.6 kilometres) off Ceuta, Spain’s enclave in North Africa.
Like the majority of immigrants hoping to enter Spain across the Mediterranean clandestinely, they were all from African countries further south than the Sahara. This is further evidence in a change in the origin of illegal immigrants, said officers Almeria’s Immigration and Borders Unit (Ucrif).
Although the people-traffickers continually change their routes, 57 per cent of immigrants intercepted in 2014 were from Nigeria and other sub-Saharan countries, compared with barely 20 per cent in 2013, Ucrif said.