WHILE the Guardia Civil in Palma were busy processing the 13 illegal immigrants caught in Lluchmajor on Thursday, police in Minorca were hunting the passengers from an abandoned launch found beached in the south of the island.
Minorcan authorities said that a full air, land and sea search of the area was underway and that the eight-metre power boat is believed to have been beached in the early hours and that items left on board indicate that the vessel had come from North Africa.
However, there was insufficient evidence to suggest exactly how many illegal immigrants had been on board and were at large on the island, if they had not already sought passage on one of the ferries to either Majorca or the mainland. The immigrants, just like the ones caught in Majorca, arrived with a change of clothes, National Police found items of wet clothing discarded among the rocks near the scene of where the launch was found between Son Xoriguer and Son Saura.
Yesterday morning, prior to the Minorca incident being reported, the Secretary of State for Immigration, Consuelo Rumí, admitted that central government is concerned by the arrival of yet another boat load of illegal immigrants in the Balearics but she was quick to differentiate between the vast scale of the problem faced in The Canaries with that here in Majorca.
She said that while large groups of illegal immigrants are literally risking their lives on board old and inadequate fishing boats to reach The Canaries on a near daily basis, those who have popped up in Majorca are using more modern vessels and state-of-the art equipment such as satellite navigation systems.
In fact, the Secretary of State underlined the significance of how well prepared the 13 immigrants detained on Thursday were.
They had set sail from Algeria with a change of clothes, mobile telephone, money, food and water.
Those who reach The Canaries arrive with nothing but the clothes they are wearing and very often in very poor health. So, we're clearly dealing with two very different methods, she said before adding that the route from Algeria to the Balearics is relatively short in comparison to ones used by the illegal immigrants setting sail from Senegal, for example.
They can be at sea for up to ten days with very little or no provisions or protection.
12 of the 13 held in Palma are expected to be transferred to a holding centre in Barcelona this morning.
Police sources would not reveal the fate of the thirteenth immigrant yesterday.
Despite assurances from local and central government sources that the Balearics is not facing an illegal immigrant problem, the central government delegate to the Balearics, Ramon Socias, has admitted that the region is clearly becoming a new gateway to Europe for North African immigrants wishing to get to France.