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Spain-Bound Migrants Stuck at Sea in International Dispute


Humanitarian agencies say there is growing concern about the plight of hundreds of migrants stranded off the Mauritanian coast for nearly a week. Officials there have refused to allow the disabled boat ashore and negotiations continue to determine where the Canary Islands-bound migrants will go. Jordan Davis reports from VOA's regional bureau in Dakar.

At least 400 African and South Asian migrants are aboard the stranded freighter known as the Marine One.

Aid groups are planning shipments of food, water and hygiene supplies to the ship.

The Marine One broke down in international waters Friday. A Spanish coastguard vessel towed it to Nouadhibou, a port city in northern Mauritania the next day.

Mauritanian authorities refused to allow the ship to dock, claiming its passengers originated their journey further south in Guinea.

Talks between Spain and Mauritania, as well as other countries in the region, have continued for several days.

William Spindler with the U.N. High Commissioner For Refugees in Geneva says the well-being of the Marine One's passengers could suffer as the stalemate drags on.

"We think this is a really worrisome development and that states need to show more flexibility and a more humane attitude to people who are in peril and need to receive help," he said.

Earlier in the week, Spanish officials described the ship as carrying 200 Pakistanis and no Africans.

More than 30,000 migrants attempted to reach Spain's Canary Islands last year, many of them hoping to slip into the European Union.

A majority of them are from African countries, but some Asian immigrants have also attempted the sea-crossing.

The European Union began patrolling the Mauritanian and Senegalese coastlines last year to catch would-be migrants at sea.

The trip up the African coast can be dangerous. Many attempt to make the crossing in rickety wooden boats and risk dying of hunger, dehydration or being thrown overboard in rough seas.