Two days earlier, Spain rescued 57 migrants at sea on Saturday as they attempted to cross the Mediterranean towards Europe from Morocco.
Spain has become the new backdoor to Europe following the closure of the Balkan route through Turkey after the latter signed a deal with the EU to tighten border control and also due to the increasing security risks and human rights abuses facing Sub-Saharans in Libya. The Mediterranean route from Moroccan or Algerian coats to Spain is now considered more peaceful and closer.
The UN Refugee Agency has warned Spain to prepare for an upcoming surge in migrant arrivals as the number of mostly sub-Saharans who made it to Spanish coasts has more than doubled in 2017 from last year, outpacing the Libya-Italy route as the fastest growing entry point to Europe.
While the Italian sea route remains the most popular overall with 59,000 migrants between January and May, up 32 percent from last year, the Spanish route further west has gathered steam with 6,800 migrants using it in the same period, a 75 percent increase from 2016.
However, hundreds of migrants die in the perilous journey on overcrowded makeshift boats between North Africa and Spain. Earlier this month, an inflatable dinghy that had apparently set out from Morocco was flipped over after being hit by a strong wave. Only three survivors were rescued by the Spanish coastguard.
The Spanish North-African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla were a favored point of entry with 3,204 people travelling to Spain after passing through the two Moroccan cities, which are officially on European Union (EU) soil.