MADRID, Oct 14 (Reuters) Spanish fishermen rescued around 50 immigrants off the coast of Libya and are seeking permission for them to disembark in the north African country, a Spanish Foreign Ministry spokesman said today.
The immigrants included at least three children and five women, Spanish national radio said yesterday. The Foreign Ministry could not confirm these details, nor give the nationality of the migrants.
Although the boat's crew are Spanish, it is sailing under a Portuguese flag, the ministry said.
Thousands of illegal immigrants attempt the journey from Africa to Spain's Canary Islands, Italy or Malta every year in rickety wooden boats. Many die trying to reach Europe in search of work.
More than 30,000 illegal migrants landed on the Canary Islands last year -- six times more than in 2005.
However, European Union sea patrols have cut the number of migrants arriving at the islands by nearly 70 per cent this year so far, the EU's border agency Frontex has said.
REUTERS PD BST1640