Spain rescues over 200 migrants from small boats

MADRID - Spain's coastguard said it had rescued 213 sub-Saharan African migrants on Monday, including 26 women and two children who were among those trying to reach Spanish soil on a flotilla of small boats.

The migrants were picked up in the Strait of Gibraltar and taken to Tarifa, Spain's southernmost port, a spokeswoman for the coastguard told AFP.

"There are apparently all in good health," she said.

Over the weekend, Spanish rescue services picked up another 68 African migrants who were trying to reach Spain in several other boats.

Thousands of undocumented migrants from Africa try to cross the 15-kilometre (nine-mile) strait from Morocco to Spain on makeshift boats and inflatable dinghies each year.

Some travel thousands of miles overland, being handed from smuggler to smuggler, ending up at one of many ports in northern Africa for a cramped and treacherous sea crossing to European soil.

Thousands of migrants also try to enter Spanish soil overland by scaling the border fences that surround Ceuta and Melilla, two Spanish territories that share a border with Morocco and that have the European Union's only land borders with Africa.