African migrants cram Spanish centres

2011-12-14 20:26
Madrid - Scores of African migrants fled to Spanish soil in recent days, jamming reception centres to bursting point, an official said on Wednesday, with some reportedly swimming to its north African enclave of Ceuta.

Some 114 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa reached Ceuta, a finger of Spanish territory bordering Morocco, where 700 people are now housed in an immigration centre designed for 500, said Carlos Bengoechea, director of the centre.

The latest arrivals came in two groups totalling 46 people on December 6 and 68 on Monday, he said. Media images over the past week showed some who had arrived after swimming from Morocco.

Originating from countries including Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Congo, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Gambia, they are being housed in the centre run by the Spanish immigration authorities pending repatriation.

"We have had to adapt some of the premises to house the immigrants who have been arriving in recent weeks," Bengoechea said.

"They are all housed in adequate conditions," he stressed, adding that extra staff had arrived to process their returns.

"We are transferring irregular immigrants to centres on the mainland as a preparatory step to their repatriation."

Thousands of migrants have risked their lives and many have died in recent years in dangerous Mediterranean sea crossings in the hope of starting a new life in Europe.

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