Spain rescues 92 migrants off the southern coast

A group of migrants arrive on board of a Spanish coast guard vessel into the southern Spanish port of Malaga on December 3, 2016 after an inflatable boat carrying 53 Africans was rescued by the Spanish coast guard off the Spanish coast. / AFP PHOTO / SERGIO CAMACHO

Spanish authorities said 92 migrants travelling in five makeshift boats were rescued off Spain’s coast on Saturday, as an increasing number of migrants seek to reach Europe via the country.

Among those rescued were 63 people from sub-Saharan Africa, officials said without specifying their nationalities, and 29 Algerians.

Most of the migrants were taken to the port of Malaga in southern Spain, following a “complicated” rescue operation in rough seas around 49 nautical miles from the coast, a maritime rescue official told a foreign news agency.

The group included three women and a child as well as a boy who had to be hospitalised after suffering from hypothermia.

Also on Saturday, Spanish authorities stopped 22 migrants hiding in a lorry who were trying to enter Melilla, a Spanish enclave in North Africa which, along with another enclave called Ceuta, are the only land borders between Africa and the EU.

Authorities used a system that detects heartbeats to detect the migrants, said Irene Flores, a spokeswoman for the Melilla government.

The 22 were taken to a migrant centre in Melilla where they will be eligible to lodge a request for asylum. The lorry driver and his assistant were detained.

The Spanish interior ministry has said more than 11,600 migrants and refugees arrived in Ceuta and Melilla last year, the majority from Syria — a 55 percent increase from 2014. The combined population of the two enclaves is just over 170,000.