European officials are preparing to launch sea patrols around Spain’s Canary Islands to stem the flow of illegal immigrants trying to get to Europe.
Waves of Africans have been pouring onto the Spanish islands, with more than 11,000 from the continent’s poorest countries making the dangerous trip so far this year—doubling the total the whole of 2005.
EU leaders say the surveillance patrols will begin in a few weeks as part of an initial emergency plan “to prevent and divert ships” trying to get to the islands.
The mission will include two airplanes and four boats for seven weeks and would be based out of the Canary Islands.
Similar patrols have been agreed for the Mediterranean island of Malta, which, along with Italy and Spain, have appealed for the EU to draw up permanent rapid reaction teams to bolster surveillance of Europe’s southern maritime borders.
Some African countries have also agreed to patrol their waters to help stop the immigrants heading out into the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea.
The EU said £3m is being given initially to boost the reception of migrants in the Canary Islands and Malta where teams of experts will be sent to help process asylum claims.
The 25-nation bloc is also being urged to work towards closer co-operation with north African nations like Libya, Morocco, Algeria and others to help prevent illegals from making it to the Mediterranean.