Boat with 40 African migrants arrives on Spanish island

A boat containing around 40 African migrants including a toddler girl landed on a beach on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria, sea rescue services said on Wednesday.

The Spanish Canary Islands off the Moroccan coast were a key route around 10 years ago for migrants from Africa trying to reach Europe, but their numbers fell after Spain increased patrolling.

Europe is in crisis as hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing war and economic migrants escaping poverty are arriving on the continent, crossing the Mediterranean on unsafe boats and over land across the Balkan peninsula.

The group of 33 men, six women and the child, were all in good health when they arrived late on Tuesday, a government official said. One of the women was pregnant, the official said.

Television images showed the migrants huddled on the beach in the dark while Red Cross workers handed out red blankets. One man lay on the beach covered in a foil blanket to prevent hypothermia.

Migrants arriving in Gran Canaria, a popular holiday destination, have in the past been mainly from Senegal and Mauritania. Migrant arrivals in the Canary Islands peaked at almost 32,000 in 2006 but fell back to around 300 in 2014, according to local newspapers.

A sophisticated system of sensors that allows Spanish police to intercept boats before they reach the shore and return agreements that Spain signed with Mauritania and Senegal reduced the flow drastically.

Small groups of migrants still attempt the journey every month. Spanish Sea Rescue picked up 34 migrants on a boat off the Canary Islands in mid-July and another 32 in early August. 

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