By Humphrey Carter PALMA

THE first group of illegal immigrants attempting to slip into Majorca by boat this year, were caught yesterday.
The alarm was raised by a local resident just after 9am when the five metre fishing boat of illegal immigrants was spotted coming ashore between Cala Pi and Vallgornera in Llucmajor and a group of men changing their clothes in between the rocks.

Members of the National Police and the Guardia Civil responded and while many of the immigrants had already come ashore and dispersed by the time the security forces reached the scene, a massive search was immediately mounted and 14 were caught and arrested.

According to the central government delegate to the Balearics, Ramon Socias, the Guardia Civil were still searching the area yesterday afternoon because they believed that there were at least 15 illegal immigrants, all apparently Algerian, on board.

Socias explained that the Guardia Civil suspect that the boat was part of a small flotilla of boats carrying illegal immigrants which set sail from Dellys, Algeria, for Spain on Wednesday.

By early yesterday evening, a total of eight boats had been intercepted and 104 illegal immigrants rescued and arrested in various parts of southern mainland Spain and Socias said that the Guardia Civil suspect that the boat which reached Majorca had been blown off course.

However, the area where the immigrants were arrested was where the last group to be intercepted in the Balearics came ashore on October 28 last year.
It is thought that the illegal immigrants, with little success, have been using old smuggling routes between Algeria and the Balearics over the past few years.

All of the 14, one of which is thought to be a minor according to the central government delegate, were in the custody of the Guardia Civil yesterday and over the next few days will be transferred to the Immigration Centre in Barcelona where they will remain until being repatriated.

Socias added that, in the case of the suspected minor, he may be handed over to the care of the Social Services here in Majorca.