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January 23, 2009

African Immigration to Europe

Tens of thousands of Africans - men, women and children fleeing their homeland - attempt to make the perilous trip from their home countries to Europe every year, seeking refuge, asylum and economic opportunity. Some travel thousands of miles overland, being handed from smuggler to smuggler, ending up at one of many ports in northern Africa, to be packed into makeshift boats and make treacherous sea crossings to European soil, to places like Spain's Canary Islands and tiny Malta where they hope to either sneak in unnoticed, or, if intercepted, be allowed to stay. Many do not survive the journey. Levels of illegal immigration to the Canary Islands alone dropped to 13,424 last year, down from a peak of nearly 32,000 in 2006. Authorities in southern European nations are still struggling however, to patrol for, care for, to process and repatriate this continuing flow of immigrants. (34 photos total)

A man looks around after his fishing boat arrived ashore on the San Blas beach on Spain's Canary Island of Tenerife, October 15, 2008. Some 69 would-be immigrants arrived on the beach aboard a fishing boat on their way to European soil from Africa, according to local authorities. (REUTERS/Santiago Ferrero)

An Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) Maritime Squadron Protector-class vessel patrols waters near the island of Filfla, the southern-most island in the Maltese archipelago, September 28, 2008. 101 African would-be immigrants were rescued by the Italian naval frigate ITS Vega at the edge of Malta's search and rescue region with Libya and subsequently transferred to AFM vessels when they found themselves in difficulty in rough seas, authorities said. (REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi) #

Would-be immigrants sit on a fishing boat while arriving at Arguineguin port in the Spanish Canary Island of Gran Canaria, September 18, 2008. Some 86 hopeful immigrants were spotted five miles south of Gran Canaria island and towed into port on their way to reaching European soil from Africa, according to authorities. (REUTERS/Borja Suarez) #

A rescue ship tows a boat carrying 76 migrants aboard in Arona, on the Spanish Canary Island of Tenerife, Thursday Nov. 6, 2008, after it the intercepted while crossing over from Africa. (AP Photo/EFE, Manuel Lerida) #

Migrants rest wrapped in blankets after arriving at Los Cristianos port on Spain's Canary Island of Tenerife early September 30, 2008. Some 229 would-be immigrants were rescued by Spanish rescue workers after being intercepted aboard a fishing boat adrift some 60 miles (96.5 km) offshore on their way to European soil from Africa, according to authorities. (REUTERS/Santiago Ferrero) #

Some of 65 sub-saharian immigrants are pictured aboard the Marine Rescue boat "Puntas Salinas" upon its arrival in Los Cristianos on October 4, 2008, on the spanish Canary island of Tenerife. (DESIREE MARTIN/AFP/Getty Images) #

An African immigrant arrives on board a rescue boat at the port of Los Cristianos on Spain's Canary island of Tenerife October 17, 2008. 110 would-be immigrants were intercepted aboard a make-shift boat on their way to European soil that day. (REUTERS/Santiago Ferrero) #

Would-be immigrants arrive at the port of Los Cristianos on Spain's Canary island of Tenerife September 23, 2008. Some of the 125 migrants that were intercepted aboard a make-shift boat sailing from Africa to Europe. (REUTERS/Santiago Ferrero) #

Two men arrive on board a rescue boat at the port of Los Cristianos on Spain's Canary island of Tenerife, October 17, 2008. They and 110 other would-be immigrants were intercepted aboard a make-shift boat on their way to Spain from Africa. (REUTERS/Santiago Ferrero) #

A small group of would-be immigrants wait on deck of a armed forces of Malta patrol boat after they were picked up two days ago by a merchant boat, some 59 miles of the south of Malta on January 11, 2009. 162 people were crammed into a boat just 10 metres (35 feet) long, included 28 women, one of whom was pregnant, and a child when rescued, and are the first to arrive in Malta this year - following the arrival of 139 migrants late last month. (BEN BORG CARDONA/AFP/Getty Images) #

A migrant helps another to get out of a rescue boat as they arrive at the port of Los Cristianos on Spain's Canary island of Tenerife October 17, 2008. (REUTERS/Santiago Ferrero) #

A would-be immigrant rests after arriving at the port of Arguineguin in Spain's Canary Island of Gran Canaria, October 18, 2008. One immigrant died onboard a fishing boat carrying about 93 others as they tried to reach European soil from Africa. (REUTERS/Borja Suarez) #

A migrant waits for instructions by Spanish authorities after 136 arrived on a boat at Los Cristianos port on the Canary island of Tenerife, Spain, on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2008. (AP Photo/Arturo Rodriguez) #

A would-be immigrant lies on the ground as he waits to be identified upon arriving at Arguineguin port in the Canary Islands of Gran Canaria early December 7, 2008. (REUTERS/Borja Suarez) #

Medical workers attend to an immigrant after his arrival at the port of Los Cristianos on Spain's Canary island of Tenerife November 18, 2008. (REUTERS/Santiago Ferrero) #

Migrants wait before disembarking from the Russian vessel Yelena Shatrova in Malta, on November 6, 2008. A boat load of 67 migrants including a pregnant woman in labour were rescued from a boat by a Russian registered bulkcarrier off the coast of Malta in poor weather conditions, Maltese officials said. (BEN BORG CARDONA/AFP/Getty Images) #

A migrant disembarks from the Russian vessel Yelena Shatrova in Malta, on November 6, 2008, one member of a boat load of 67 migrants that were rescued from a boat by a Russian registered bulkcarrier off the coast of Malta. (BEN BORG CARDONA/AFP/Getty Images) #

A member of Spanish Civil guard holds a baby after arriving at the port of Motril, southern Spain October 21, 2008, one of a party of 73 others aboard a fishing boat that was intercepted off the southern Spanish coast. (REUTERS/Pepe Marin) #

The tagged wrist of a would be immigrant is pictured on the ground in Los Cristianos on the Spanish Canary island of Tenerife on November 6, 2008. (DESIREE MARTIN/AFP/Getty Images) #

Some of the 69 illegal immigrants lie exhausted after arriving at San Blas on the Spanish Canary island of Tenerife on October 15, 2008. (DESIREE MARTIN/AFP/Getty Images) #

Tourists look at a group of 45 would-be immigrants, including 10 believed to be minors, being treated by Red Cross workers after their arrival at the port of San Miguel in Tenerife, Spain's Canary Islands, on November 13, 2008. (DESIREE MARTIN/AFP/Getty Images) #

Illegal immigrants walk towards a police bus after being brought ashore from the motor tanker "Overseas Primar" by the Armed Forces of Malta in Valletta's Grand Harbour January 14, 2009. The Marshall Islands-registered tanker rescued 162 migrants from a 10-metre boat 59 miles south of Malta after finding themselves in difficulty while on their way to reach European soil from Africa on January 11, but bad weather had since thwarted several attempts at the disembarkation of the migrants. (REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi) #

A hopeful immigrant waits to be identified upon arriving at Arguineguin port in the Canary Islands of Gran Canaria early December 7, 2008. Around 70 immigrants, one of them dead, were intercepted off the coast aboard a makeshift boat on their way to reach European soil. (REUTERS/Borja Suarez) #

A migrant gets a plastic tag fitted on his wrist by a police officer after being brought ashore from the motor tanker #

A would-be immigrant rests after his arrival at the port of Los Cristianos on Spain's Canary island of Tenerife November 18, 2008. (REUTERS/Santiago Ferrero) #

An immigrant casts a shadow on a Red Cross tent upon arriving at Arguineguin port in the Canary Islands of Gran Canaria early December 7, 2008. (REUTERS/Borja Suarez) #

A young immigrant sits on the ground after arriving at the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) Maritime Squadron base at Haywharf in Valletta's Marsamxett Harbour September 28, 2008, one of around 101 Africans that were rescued by the Italian naval frigate ITS Vega at the edge of Malta's search and rescue region with Libya and subsequently transferred to AFM vessels. (REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi) #

A migrant, one of 69 who arrived on a small wooden boat from western Africa, is seen on the beach in San Miguel de Abona, on the Spanish Canary Island of Tenerife, Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2008. (AP Photo/EFE, Cristobal Garcia) #

A would-be immigrant prays after being safely brought ashore from the motor tanker "Overseas Primar" by the Armed Forces of Malta at Anchor Bay on the northwest coast of Malta January 13, 2009. 161 would-be immigrants were rescued by the Marshall Islands-registered tanker on January 11 after finding themselves in difficulty while on their way to reach European soil from Africa, an army source said. (REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi) #

African immigrants rest and receive first aid after arriving at Los Cristianos port on Spain's Canary Island of Tenerife early September 30, 2008. Some 229 of them were rescued by Spanish rescue workers after being intercepted aboard a fishing boat adrift some 60 miles (96.5 km) offshore. (REUTERS/Santiago Ferrero) #

Immigrants arrive at the port of Los Cristianos on Spain's Canary island of Tenerife September 23, 2008. (REUTERS/Santiago Ferrero) #

An unidentified immigrant from Nigeria looks at the TV in his store in Pamplona, northern Spain Tuesday Jan. 20, 2009 as President Barack Obama gives his inaugural address at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos) #

African immigrants wait to get off their rescue boat as they arrive to Los Cristianos port on Spain's Canary Island of Tenerife early September 30, 2008. Some 229 would-be immigrants were rescued by Spanish rescue workers after being intercepted aboard a fishing boat adrift some 60 miles (97 km) offshore. (REUTERS/Santiago Ferrero) #

A would-be immigrant prays after arriving at the Puerto Rico beach on Spain's Canary island of Gran Canaria July 1, 2008. (REUTERS/Borja Suarez) #

 
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