Rescue crews found a boat crammed with 41 would-be immigrants, including four babies, off the Canary Islands, after they made a mobile phone call to say they had been adrift for three days.
A helicopter spotted the vessel off the island of Fuerteventura last night after a 10-hour search prompted by the phone call, said Anibal Carrillo, head of the maritime rescue service in the archipelago’s capital, Las Palmas.
“They said they were lost and could not see land. They didn’t know where they were,” Carrillo said.
He said the travellers – 19 men, 18 women and four babies, all from sub-Saharan countries in Africa – were “in as good shape as they could be after spending three days at sea”.
Each year thousands of Africans seeking to escape poverty attempt treacherous trips in flimsy, overcrowded boats, hoping to reach the Canary Islands in the Atlantic or the Spanish mainland by crossing the Strait of Gibraltar from Morocco.
Spain generally tries to deport such immigrants quickly, but some poorer countries do not take them back, leaving them in legal limbo to live in squalid holding facilities.
While many are caught, officials estimate thousands manage to slip through.