The skull is thought to belong to one of 9 migrants missing since their boat capsized in March
A fisherman at the semi-wild beach of Percheles in the south-west of the municipality of Mazarrón suffered a fright on Wednesday when he found a human skull entangled in his nets.
His alarming discovery was made at approximately 15.00, and although it is too early to draw any definite conclusions regarding the provenance of the skull it is thought likely that it belonged to one of the illegal migrants whose boat capsized in the area in March of this year. The remains are to be analysed by forensic scientists in an effort to establish more definite indications.
The bodies of two of the boat’s occupants were found and three more were found alive, but after days of searching the emergency services abandoned all hope of finding more, leaving nine people unaccounted for.
This was the unsatisfactory end to an episode which saw almost 200 reaching or being intercepted as they attempted to cross from northern Africa to the coastlines of Murcia and the provinces of Alicante and Almería, taking advantage of good weather and calm sea conditions. However, the conditions suddenly changed dramatically and caught the 14 occupants of the boat concerned unawares.
Every year hundreds of irregular migrants die trying to illegally enter Spain by sea: yesterday a 5-year-old migrant girl who was spotted drifting in the Atlantic on board a small boat after 17 days at sea was airlifted to hospital in Gran Canaria but died.
The helicopter collected the girl, along with a man and woman, from the merchant vessel the Cape Cape Taweelah, which had picked them up from the open sea, and arrived at the Hospital Universitario Doctor Negrín in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria shortly before midnight on Tuesday. Both the woman and the girl had been in very poor health since they were rescued from the sea, and medical staff managed to save only the elder of the two.
Their boat had been spotted between Nuadibú in Mauritania and Dajla in the Western Sahara, two of the coastal locations most often used as starting points for migrants attempting the perilous voyage towards the Canaries and EU territory. Initially it was reported that 35 people had successfully been taken on board the cargo ship and that only a dead man remained on the small boat, and this misinformation, coupled with rough sea conditions, delayed the rescue mission.
Figures compiled by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN’s ACNUR Commission report that between 136 and 160 people lost their lives while attempting to cross on small boats from north-western Africa to the Canaries in the first six months of this year, equating to an average of almost one death per day.
The morgue in Murcia currently contains a dozen unidentified bodies, most of them believed to be irregular migrants.
Image: the scene at Percheles in March as rescue workers searched for survivors