Morocco: UNHCR mission update

Briefing Notes, 21 October 2005

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 21 October 2005, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Just to update you, our senior headquarters team which went to Morocco on Oct. 11, met yesterday with government officials, who said UNHCR would have access to persons of concern there. Another meeting is scheduled for today in Rabat to work out concrete arrangements. Although this is primarily a migration issue involving many different actors, we agreed that UNHCR has a role to play with the asylum seekers and refugees among the larger flow of people.

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Sighted off Spain's Canary Islands

Despite considerable dangers, migrants seeking a better future and refugees fleeing war and persecution continue to board flimsy boats and set off across the high seas. One of the main routes into Europe runs from West Africa to Spain's Canary Islands.

Before 2006, most irregular migrants taking this route used small vessels called pateras, which can carry up to 20 people. They left mostly from Morocco and the Western Sahara on the half-day journey. The pateras have to a large extent been replaced by boats which carry up to 150 people and take three weeks to reach the Canaries from ports in West Africa.

Although only a small proportion of the almost 32,000 people who arrived in the Canary Islands in 2006 applied for asylum, the number has gone up. More than 500 people applied for asylum in 2007, compared with 359 the year before. This came at a time when the overall number of arrivals by sea went down by 75 percent during 2007.

Sighted off Spain's Canary Islands