By Humphrey Carter

PALMA
THE Guardia Civil in Ibiza yesterday intercepted the third boat load of illegal immigrants in the past week, but this time some of the nine immigrants arrested needed urgent hospital treatment and the police suspect that there may be a large “mother” ship carrying immigrants operating off the coast of the Balearics.

The alarm was raised at 7.15am yesterday morning when a resident in Ses Salines, in the south of Ibiza, reported a small zodiac washed up on the beach.
The Local Police and the Guardia Civil mounted a search of the area and found the nine immigrants, one a minor aged only 15.
All of the nine males were suffering from hypothermia and dehydration and had apparently rowed the four-metre zodiac ashore.
The central government delegate to the Balearics, Ramon Socias, proclaimed yesterday that there is absolutely no way they could have sailed the zodiac through the force six and seven gales from Algeria. The Guardia Civil therefore suspect there may be a mother ship and yesterday afternoon a spotter plane was combing waters to the south of the Balearics looking for a suspect boat.

However, if the Balearic Air Sea Rescue service does locate a suspicious vessel, Socias admitted that the authorities will be unable to act if the ship is in international waters. “But, what we can do is closely monitor the ship's movements and prevent it from setting any more boats full of immigrants sail towards the Balearics,” he added. “On the other hand, if we find the ship in Spanish waters then it may be a job for the navy,” said Socias.
Last night, Balearic government spokesperson Margarita Najera, said that Palma will be “upping the pressure” on Madrid for greater and immediate resources to combat the arrival of illegal immigrants which the authorities fear is going to spiral into a major problem over the next few weeks.

Najera admitted yesterday that the arrival of a third boat in six days, the first to have reached Ibiza, has “deeply concerned” the government. However, both she and Socias denied that a new immigrant route has been opened between North Africa and the Balearics.

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