Spain urges Mauritania to allow 168 migrants rescued at sea to disembark

MADRID (AP) — About 170 migrants who were rescued in the Atlantic Ocean have been stuck aboard a Spanish Civil Guard boat for days near the northwest African nation of Mauritania after authorities there refused to let them disembark, according to Spanish media reports.

Spain’s Interior Ministry on Monday declined to provide details of the incident but said in an email that it was “confident that the situation would be resolved in the following hours.” It said 168 people were rescued.

A spokesperson for Mauritania’s interior ministry could not immediately be reached for comment.

Leading Spanish newspaper El País said the Civil Guard rescued the migrants Thursday about 80 nautical miles (150 kilometers) off the coast of Mauritania. It said the migrants are believed to be Senegalese.

The Civil Guard is one of two national police forces in Spain. For years, it has worked with local authorities in Mauritania and Senegal to try to prevent migrants from attempting to reach Spain’s Canary Islands, an archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of Africa.

In recent months there has been a surge of migrants departing from Senegal who must navigate north past Mauritania to reach the Canaries.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Senegalese Abroad, who handles migration affairs, refused to comment on the latest case.

International maritime law mandates that any person found in distress at sea must be rescued and brought to the nearest place of safety.