Spain could top Greece in migrant sea arrivals: IOM

Spain could overtake Greece this year in the number of migrants arriving by sea, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Thursday, using boats and even jet-skis.

Madrid: Spain could overtake Greece this year in the number of migrants arriving by sea, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Thursday, using boats and even jet-skis.

On Wednesday afternoon, holidaymakers on a beach in southern Spain were stunned when a black rubber boat full of migrants reached the shore, its occupants jumping out and running away as scores of sun-worshippers looked on.

On the same day, 12 migrants arrived in waters off the Spanish territory of Ceuta in northern Morocco on board jet-skis, with one -- a 28-year-old man from Guinea -- drowning before he could be rescued, authorities said.

On Thursday morning, Spanish coastguards said they had rescued 10 men from sub-Saharan Africa in a rickety boat off Tarifa in southern Spain.

And the list goes on.

According to the IOM`s latest figures, until August 6, close to 8,200 migrants had arrived in Spain so far this year.

That is more than triple the number who reached Spain at the same time last year, according to Joel Millman, a senior IOM spokesman, and already more than the total arrivals in 2016.

While the figure pales in comparison with arrivals in Italy -- where more than 96,400 have landed so far this year -- Spain is catching up with Greece where 11,713 have arrived by sea in the same timeframe.

"It`s possible that Spain will outperform Greece this year," Millman told AFP.

"If so, that`s a big change."

He said many people taking the long route towards Italy via the Sahara and Libya were from west Africa.

But with the dangers faced, some may be deciding to go up along the coast instead.

"We assume that some of the change is due to the fact that the route is considered a safe route up to the coast through Morocco," Millman said.

He added that the boats crossing the short but choppy sea to Spain were much smaller than those launching from Libya to Italy.

In Libya there "appears to be a very deliberate strategy to put people out there, in overloaded boats that begin to take on water almost immediately and then it`s a race to see how quickly the people on the boat can summon aid," he said. 

"Whereas in Spain, the strategy is smaller craft hoping to come in undetected, and undoubtedly some do."