Spain saves over 340 migrants at sea, one on truck tyre

Migrants intercepted aboard three toy dinghies in the Strait of Gibraltar, stand after arriving on a rescue boat at the port of Tarifa, southern Spain. PHOTO: REUTERS

MADRID (AFP) - Spanish rescuers saved more than 340 migrants in the Mediterranean on Saturday (July 14), including one person from north Africa who was attempting the crossing on board a truck tyre, they said.

Salvamento Maritimo, Spain's coastguards, said their ships had rescued 240 people spread out in 12 boats, 10 of them in the Strait of Gibraltar and two others in the Alboran Sea, and on the truck tyre.

A spokesman added that the Guardia Civil police force had also saved more than 100 migrants in the Mediterranean.

Spain is set to overtake Italy as the country of choice for migrants trying to reach Europe.

Some 16,902 people have arrived in Spain so far this year, the International Organization for Migration's most recent figures show, and a further 294 died in the attempt.

All in all, more than 1,400 migrants have lost their lives in the Mediterranean this year, they add.

Last month, Spain also agreed to take in 630 migrants who arrived aboard three vessels, including the French NGO rescue ship Aquarius.

The Aquarius rescued the migrants off Libya's coast on June 9 but Italy's new populist government and Malta both refused to let it dock, triggering an international outcry before Spain stepped in to help.

Then on July 4, a ship belonging to Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms docked in Barcelona with 60 migrants rescued off the Libyan coast on board after Italy refused to take them in.

Faced with growing tensions in the EU over the issue, member states struck a deal in late June to stem the arrival of migrants.

The accord includes the setting up of secure centres for migrants in the bloc, "disembarkation platforms" outside the bloc and sharing out refugees among member states.

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