This is the first of a series of newspaper articles we’ll analyse this year. Headlines trap our attention and make readers want to know more. Also photos and captions are a way to give a face to news stories .
A would-be immigrant needs to have a lot of courage — and be very desperate — to take to the treacherous waters of the Strait of Gibraltar in an inflatable toy boat with 12 companions to try to reach Spain.
On Monday, 27 sub-Saharans were rescued in open sea as they attempted to reach the shores of Europe, a 20-kilometer journey through water whipped up by the endless stream of vast tankers traveling between Morocco and Spain, and changeable ocean winds.
The method chosen by these would-be immigrants is risky, but cheap: tiny plastic boats, crammed with people, at the limit of their floatability and propelled by flimsy plastic oars. Each boat costs between 100 and 184 euros.
The Africans were located by search and rescue teams in four boats about halfway across the Strait. The northernmost boat was picked up six-and-a-half miles off the coast of Tarifa, Cádiz. In it were six immigrants, all of them male adults. Their combined weight would have far exceeded the 200 kilograms these beach boats are designed to take.
An alert call from Moroccan authorities caused the rescue teams to mobilize. Soon afterward two vessels, a Spanish coastguard and a Red Cross launch, found a second boat carrying seven men and a woman, who were taken to Tarifa. The Red Cross launch later brought in another eight men rescued from a third boat. At the same time a Moroccan Gendarmerie patrol boat intercepted the fourth boat and took its occupants to Tangier.
In recent weeks attempts to reach Spain in inflatable boats have increased, especially when the weather conditions in the Strait are not especially adverse. The rise in these kinds of attempt to reach Europe are largely attributable to the low cost of buying the boat and because their small size makes them difficult to pick up on radar. Taking their fates into their own hands, say Civil Guard sources, also means that the would-be immigrants do not have to deal with the mafias that organize larger vessels for the crossing.
In October, 23 people lost their lives in a spate of attempted crossings. The Spanish Border Control Agency said at the time that the number of immigrants reaching Spain this year had increased 6.5 percent over 2011.