Spain's coastguard rescues 208 migrants crossing from Africa

Interior Ministry says 18,018 migrants arrived in Spain this year by mid-August

epa07290489 A handout picture provided by the Spanish Civil Guard and Spanish Sea Rescue Services shows a small boat carrying some migrants at sea, near Barbate, Cadiz, southern Spain, 16 January 2019. A total of 124 migrants were rescued at sea while trying to reach Spanish soil traveling on two small boats.  EPA/SPANISH CIVIL GUARD HANDOUT  HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

The Spanish coastguard rescued 208 migrants on Wednesday as they tried to make the crossing from Africa to Spain, it reported on Thursday.

The rescue comes as the country is preparing for the arrival of a Spanish warship with 15 migrants from an Italian port.

Those migrants were picked up after a long standoff between Italian authorities and a Spanish-registered private rescue boat.

On Thursday, the coastguard said the 208 migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa were found in three rafts in the Alboran Sea, between north-eastern Morocco and south-eastern Spain, on Wednesday afternoon.

They were taken to Almeria and Malaga, it said.

Interior Ministry data shows 18,018 migrants arrived in Spain this year by mid-August.

This was a decrease of 39 per cent from the same period last year.

UN data shows irregular sea arrivals in the EU from the Mena region dropped from more than a million in 2015 to about 141,500 people last year.

Almost 15,000 people are estimated to have died or gone missing in the perilous sea voyage.