Madrid Police caught nearly 1,200 people trying to reach the Canary Islands in overcrowded boats that left from the west African nation of Mauritania, setting a record for a weekend, officials said Sunday.
At least 12 boats reached the islands in the span of 36 hours, Civil Guard officials said. All the migrants, including children, were in good health, they said. Some 674 people arrived Saturday and 522 reached shore Sunday.
With routes through Morocco gradually being sealed, the rising wave of African migration to Europe has been pushed hundreds of miles south, forcing many to make a perilous voyage in open boats to Spain's Canary Islands, their gateway to the prosperous European Union.
More than 20,000 Africans have been intercepted so far this year in the archipelago, and the total for August was around 6,000 compared with 4,751 for all of last year, according to Spanish authorities.
Spain has asked the European Union, the United Nations and the international community to assist with the situation.