People smuggling gangs are offering migrants the opportunity to be trafficked from Morocco to Spain by toy dinghy or jet ski, the EU’s border protection agency has warned.
Frontex said traffickers are charging migrants as much as €3,300 to be ferried across the Strait of Gibraltar in as little as 30 minutes aboard high speed motorboats and jet skis.
Less well-off migrants can hand smugglers €440 to cross the relatively short stretch of water in rubber dinghies.
The agency said that while travelling from Libya to Italy remains the most popular route for migrants attempting to seek asylum or a better life in Europe, arrivals from Morocco to Spain have more than doubled over the course of the past year.
Over 6,000 migrants are thought to have opted to take this route since the beginning of 2017, avoiding danger in lawless Libya and taking advantage of the much shorter sea crossing which is more often used for drug smuggling, according to Frontex.
The increasing popularity of the Morocco/Spain route has prompted people smugglers to up the prices they charge migrants who want to us it.
Over the last year, traffickers have doubled their average fee to cross the strait to €1,100.
While migrants with deeper pockets are able to travel the route in some style, those with less money are only able to afford higher risk modes of transport, such as toy boats that could easily capsize when hit by a large wave.
Frontex said the closure of migrant camps in Algeria and Morocco might be one of the push factors behind the increased popularity of the route.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said last week that the number of migrants arriving in Spain has trebled so far this year compared to the same period in 2016.
The IOM estimates that over 11,000 migrants arrived in Spain in the first half of the, 8,300 of whom are thought to have come by boat.
If the trend continues, migrant arrival numbers in Spain could soon top those seen in Greece, which took in 11,713 people over the same period.
Joel Millman, an IOM spokesperson, told the AFP news agency: “We assume that some of the change is due to the fact that the route [to Spain] is considered a safe route up to the coast through Morocco.”
On Wednesday this week, sun seekers were left stunned when a rubber dinghy packed with African migrants landed on a beach in the south of Spain.
Once the boat was ashore, around 20 men alighted and fled across Playa de los Alemanes beach into the countryside surrounding Zahara de los Atunes near Cádiz, which is some 12 kilometres away from the North African coast.