Immigrants target islands off Morocco as entry point to Spain

Dozens arrive on barren Isla de Tierra over the weekend

A new frontier in attempts to reach Spain has been opened with the arrival of 68 sub-Saharan would-be immigrants on the tiny Isla de Tierra, an uninhabited scrap of rock belonging to Spain that lies just 50 meters off the Moroccan coast.

The latest arrivals joined 19 others who reached the island last Wednesday. Their aim is to be transferred either to the Spanish mainland or to Melilla, which lies 130 kilometers to the East. Three of the latest party are minors, who will probably be moved to Melilla, said sources at the Interior Ministry. Among the first group were three children, their mothers and a pregnant woman. All of them were taken to a holding center in the exclave.

The government is yet to decide the fate of the remaining immigrants but the central government delegate in Melilla, Abdelmalik El Barkani, blamed mafias that offer people routes into Spain, dumping their cargo on the tiny island with food and blankets but little tangible result.

“Any undesirable consequence arising from irregular access to national territory is not the consequence of government immigration policy but of those who make a business out of exploiting human beings, including the most vulnerable, such as children,” El Barkani said on Friday.

The latest desperate attempts to enter Spain come after immigrants managed to reach Peñón de Alhucemas and the Chafarinas Islands, also tiny outcrops in the Alboran Sea, last month. Concerted attempts have also been made to force the border fence at Melilla, with hundreds assailing the wall last month. Over the weekend some 60 more tried their luck but were unable to reach Spanish soil.

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