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Several Children Die Among Migrants Trying to Reach Spain

At least 15 would be migrants, many of them young children, have died off the coast of Spain in an attempt to reach Europe from Africa in a small boat. The incident is the second this week in which would-be migrants to Spain have perished, and comes as both European and African leaders are again addressing the migration issue. Brent Latham has more from our West Africa bureau in Dakar.

The migrants were aboard a small craft that was attempting to make the crossing from Africa to Spain. Spanish police said of the 15 reported deaths, at least nine were children, aged from nine months to four years, according to rescued survivors.

A total of 34 survivors were found by the Spanish Coast Guard about 40 kilometers off the coast of southern Spain. The Spanish police said that the exact number and age of the dead could not be confirmed, because survivors had thrown some of the bodies overboard.

Survivors told police they had spent five days at sea.

The tragedy was the second this week off the coast of Spain involving Sub-Saharan African migrants. Earlier in the week at least 14 Nigerian migrants are believed to have drowned when their boat capsized in heavy seas.

Attempts to make the journey from Africa to Europe increase during the European summer, says Olivia Acosta, a Spain-based spokeswoman for the Red Cross. The Red Cross is called upon to assist immigrants after they have arrived.

Acosta says in summer the seas are calmer, but the intense heat is oppressive.

The rough conditions can be especially difficult on children. A spokesman for Save the Children in Spain, who did not want to be named, said mothers often bring their young children along on the journey.

He says that the children are particularly vulnerable, but their mothers are reluctant to leave them behind in poverty.

This latest tragedy comes after some African leaders condemned new European Union policies on illegal immigrants. At a conference on the issue in Dakar on Wednesday, many African representatives spoke harshly about new EU measures that could increase arrests and deportations of migrants.

Senegal's Foreign Minister, Cheikh Tidiane Gadio, told reporters that he was surprised by the EU initiatives. He said that "the time has past when Europe decided things on its own and Africa fell in line."

Under the new migration pact, if it is finalized later this year, the EU would expel more illegal immigrants and promote legal migration. One component which would attract more educated migrants from Africa has been heavily criticized by some detractors who have said the measures will make Africa poorer.