21 August 2006

Senegal: Spain Offers Helicopter, Two Patrol Boats to Curb Illegal Migration

Dakar — Spain on Monday said it would provide a helicopter and two patrol boats to Senegal to help the country patrol its coastline to curb illegal migration to the Spanish Canary Islands.

In recent months, there has been a large increase in illegal migration from Senegal. Authorities say some 17,000 illegal migrants have turned up on the Canary Islands this year; last weekend alone, they intercepted 1,200 illegal migrants as they arrived on the archipelago's shores.

Spain has already provided 20 pick-up trucks, 50 computers, 50 infrared goggles and 50 walkie-talkies to help the gendarmes, police and the marines conduct patrols as more and more Senegalese and other West Africans choose to make the 1,500 km sea journey.

"We agree on the philosophy and the policy to confront the urgent situation," Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said after meeting with Senegalese officials. "We have taken great measures to reinforce Senegal's means of surveillance."

"Senegal has more than 700 km of coasts that are not easy to monitor," said Senegalese Interior Minister Ousmane Ngom. "We [Senegal and Spain] have the same visions and the same policy against illegal immigration - It is zero tolerance."

While Senegal said it agreed with the essential mandate of Frontex [the EU border control mechanism], Dakar has not yet signed the accord that would allow European vessels to patrol Senegalese waters as they do along the coasts of Mauritania and Cape Verde.

Frontex coordinates the activities of national border guards to ensure the security of the EU's borders with non-member states. It became operational last year.

Spain has no formal repatriation agreement with Senegal. As a result, Spanish authorities in the past were forced to release illegal Senegalese immigrants and others with no identity papers at all, on the Spanish mainland.

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

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