BARCELONA – Spanish authorities rescued over 500 migrants this weekend from more than a dozen boats making the perilous Mediterranean crossing to Europe.

Authorities said after plane and helicopter searches, Spanish boats rescued almost 300 migrants from nine boats on Saturday. On Sunday afternoon they added that they had rescued a further 250 migrants from eight boats, three were in such a poor condition they later sank.

Officials said the migrants were from various countries in North and sub-Saharan Africa.

The number of people crossing into Spain by sea from North Africa, either through the Strait of Gibraltar or the Sea of Alboran, has significantly increased in the past few years, as arrivals to Italy and Greece via Libya have dropped.

According to official figures, around 19,000 people made the sea crossing in 2017, this represents a 182% increase from last year.

Frontex, Europe’s border agency said in January that it expected a further increase in irregular immigration to Spain this year, with increase numbers expected flows due to the use of fast boats.

On Sunday an Italian coastguard official said over 1,800 migrants attempting to cross from Libya to Italy were rescued over the past three days, the reason being was the improvement of the weather in Europe.

Photo credit- AFP

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