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More than 250 migrants rescued off Spain's coast

Thousands of refugees have died attempting to cross into Europe [AFP]

Date of publication: 18 November, 2017

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Spanish authorities said over 250 migrants making the dangerous crossing to Europe were rescued off the coast of Spain on Friday, with several other vessels still in need of rescue.

More than 250 migrants making the dangerous crossing to Europe were rescued off the coast of Spain on Friday, with several other vessels still in need of rescue, authorities said.

The number rescued on Friday stood at 266, who had been aboard 24 makeshift vessels, said a spokeswoman for the rescuers. Some 15 other boats in need of help were still being sought.

Authorities took the migrants to ports at Cartagena, Malaga and Torrevieja, which are all along Spain's Mediterranean coast.

Spain is the third busiest gateway for migrants arriving in Europe, but far behind Italy and Greece. However, the number of people arriving by sea in Spain has nearly tripled over last year to 17,687.

Meanwhile, many Africans undertaking the long route to Europe are choosing to avoid crossing danger-ridden Libya to get to Italy along the so-called central Mediterranean route, and choosing instead to get there via Morocco to Spain.

Last week, the UN said a group of vulnerable refugees from several African countries, who had been stuck in war-ravaged Libya, were evacuated to Niger.

The UN refugee agency said the evacuation of 25 "extremely vulnerable refugees" from Libya marked the first of its kind.

The chaos-ridden country has long been a major transit hub for migrants trying to reach Europe, and many refugees and migrants have fallen prey to serious abuse there at the hands of human traffickers and others.

"We are taking people out of a very dangerous situation," UNHCR spokesman William Spindler told AFP.

The group evacuated was made up of 15 women, six men and four children of Eritrean, Ethiopian and Sudanese nationalities, UNHCR said.

"All of them will be hosted in a guesthouse in Niamey until their resettlement applications are processed," Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR's Special Envoy for the Central Mediterranean Situation, said in a statement.

The UN agency has called for countries around the world to step up and offer desperately needed resettlement places to refugees stranded in 15 countries along the Central Mediterranean migration route.

It has estimated that 277,000 places are needed for refugees in Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Sudan and Tunisia.

In September, UNHCR urgently called for 40,000 resettlement places for refugees in the 15 countries, pointing out that since the beginning of the year, only 6,700 places had been provided.

According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) 158,935 people have made the dangerous crossing to Europe this year and another 2,982 died or went missing while trying.

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