Migrants drown off Spanish beach

At least 21 North African migrants, many of them children, drowned in sight of bathers as their...

Picture: EWN

At least 21 North African migrants, many of them children, drowned in sight of bathers as their overcrowded boat capsized just metres off a beach in the <?xml:namespace prefix="st1" ns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags"?><place w:st="on">Canary Islands, Spanish emergency services said on Monday.<?xml:namespace prefix="o" ns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office"?>

Swimmers and surfers tried to reach the migrants as they struggled in rough waters before Coast Guard boats arrived at the spot just 20 metres off Cocoteros beach at the town of <city w:st="on"><place w:st="on">Teguise in Lanzarote in the early evening onSunday, an emergency services spokesman said.

Six people were rescued but Coast Guards had recovered 18 bodies by Monday.

They were also trying to retrieve three more they had seen in the water.

Emergency services believe the boat was carrying about 28 people, including many under the age of 18, but the spokesman could not confirm media reports some survivors ran off after making it to the beach.

Spanish authorities generally try to deport migrants arriving illegally by sea, usually from West Africa but also from <country-region w:st="on"><place w:st="on">Morocco</country-region>.

About 9 000 arrived in the Canaries last year, down by three-quarters from a peak in 2006 when <country-region w:st="on"><place w:st="on">Spain</country-region> organised naval patrols and stepped up deportations.

Thousands more are also believed to have died making the attempt in 2008, although usually far at sea and out of sight.

Over the weekend, two other boats carrying 145 people, around 20 of them children, landed safely on nearby <place w:st="on">Tenerife.