MSF assisting 'pateras' illegal immigrants on Canary Islands

It is 100kms from the northern Africa costline to Fuerteventura Island. The journey takes about 20 hours and people are crammed on board so tightly there is little space to move. There is a constant threat of capsizing. Although men are in the clear majority, more and more women - some with their children - are starting to make the dangerous journey.
Fuerteventura - Today the international aid organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has started an emergency intervention in Fuerteventura Island - a part of the Canary Islands - to provide humanitarian assistance to the immigrants arriving on 'pateras' (boats) to the island's shore. Although 7,858 illegal immigrants arrived in Fuerteventura on pateras during 2003, so far no assistance whatsoever has been organized. For this reason, MSF has decided to carry out an intervention intended to provide aid to the immigrants arriving on the coast as well as to those intercepted on high seas and later taken ashore. MSF has set up a field hospital and a mobile team made up of a coordinator, doctor, nurse and logistician to operate from the Gran Tarajal harbour as this is the site where most immigrants are brought after being intercepted on high seas by the Civil Guard. The MSF team will provide basic medical care and first aid as well as identifying priorities to allow the most severe cases to be referred to the health centres on the island. The team will also distribute blankets, water, warm drinks and biscuits. Fuerteventura has become the main destination for African immigrants, especially those coming from Sub-Saharan Africa. Whether having landed on the coast or intercepted on high seas and taken to the port, the condition of these people often show the same symptoms: hypothermia, hypoglycaemia, exhaustion, dehydration, hunger and thirst. Moreover, and often depending on the circumstances surrounding their landing, they may also present cuts, bruises and sprains as many of them are barefooted. MSF starts its activities today (March 1) but on Saturday (Feb 28) the team had already assisted 62 sub-saharan immigrants that reached Fuerteventura on two pateras. These inmigrants come from different countries and the majority of them come for for economic reasons, although there are some who are asylum-seekers. Ã? They flee from sub-saharan countries including Benin, Mali, Senegal, Ghana and especially Nigeria and Cameroon. Ã? There are also some pateras with Africans from Morocco and Algeria, but these are fewer in number. The distance between the African coast and Fuerteventura is 100 kms. Crossing in a patera is extremely dangerous and takes about 20 hours. Ã? There are 25-30 people per patera - basically men but women, some with their babies, are starting to make the journey. Ã?  Space on the boat is limited and during the trip they can barely move. Ã? The risk of capsizing is enormous. Ã? During 2003 Fuerteventura officially received 327 pateras - but this number does not include the ones that succeeded and escaped from the police control.