The United Nations has sounded the alarm over a new route being taken by immigrants trying to get into mainland Europe: via Spain.
According to figures released by the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) , the number of people crossing the Mediterranean into Spain has more than tripled this year to more than 3,300.
A year ago the figure was 1,063.
The Western Mediterranean route from Morocco to Spain was previously popular but for several years Italy and Greece have surpassed it as European entry points.
However, the EU’s deal with Turkey, under which Syrian refugees arriving in Greece are meant to be sent back to Turkey, has led to a drop in crossings three and resurgence in Spain.
The majority of those crossing from Morocco into Spain travel from sub-Saharan Africa. Syrian refugees are also known to use the route.
Maria J Vega, spokesman for UNHCR in Spain, told the Daily Telegraph: “It is a worrying situation – this increase means that there are more people desperately trying to reach safe countries and they are risking their lives at the hands of smugglers and traffickers.”
Spain now higher numbers of immigrant deaths in its waters than Greece, with 51 people killed crossing the Mediterranean to the country this year, as against 37 deaths in the Aegean Sea.
Italy remains by far the most popular entry point with 80 per cent of arrivals – but it is also the deadliest.
Almost 1,500 people have been killed on their way to Italy in 2017. Figures state almost 59,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean to Italy this year, a jump of about 50 per cent on 2016 when just over 40,000 made the journey