By Frances Leate
Africans hoping for a better life in Europe are using cheap inflatable dinghies with plastic oars to get to Spain.
In the first week of December, 160 immigrants had to be rescued by Spanish coastguards while crossing the straits of Gibraltar on what rescuers have described as “toy dinghies”.
The 20 mile journey separating Morocco and Spain has been undertaken by scores of people, including children and babies just a few months old in the cheap plastic boats.
Rescuers say the toy boats are being used to avoid paying the €930 a head charged by people smugglers.
A Red Cross worker who has helped in several rescue mission, said: “It breaks your heart to see children being out in such danger.”
Spanish coastguards have also spotted brightly coloured recreational dinghies without occupants and it is believed that some immigrants are run down by big ships at night.
Bodies often wash up onSpain’s beaches while tourists sunbathe.
Since the beginning of 2012, the number of north Africans that have been rescued from the strait by the Spanish has more than doubled to 1,172 to 520 in 2011.
There are also countless others making the journey from different parts ofAfrica, hoping to reach a port in the European Union.