Chief Inspector José María Manso. | Alejandro Sepúlveda

José María Manso is the chief inspector of the National Police's immigration division in the Balearics. In recent years, the number of people arriving illegally in small boats has risen sharply, and he says that "unfortunately, it's a great 'business' and it's very profitable".

Last year, the police arrested some fifty skippers of boats. They were from 'mafias' dedicated to the human trafficking of migrants, and he explains that in Algeria - which is where the boats come from - these criminal groups select people who know how to navigate the boats. "The skippers are sailors and knowledgeable people."

The journey is some 270 nautical miles and can normally be done in around 24 hours. The price varies. "It depends on the number of people travelling, the type of boat and the origin. The average cost of the trip is usually 1,000 euros if they are Algerian and 1,500 if they are sub-Saharan."

The profile of migrant "has changed a lot". "It used to be that they were only young Algerians but now we find absolutely everyone. Men, women, the elderly, children and babies. Anyone who can pay the mafias can get a ticket and come."

It's said that the Balearics are a transit destination. Chief Inspector Manso agrees that this was normally always the case. Migrants were either expelled or left for other European countries. "But now, as the number of new arrivals increases and they cannot be expelled, there are many who decide to stay here. It's no secret that Spain and Algeria broke off relations some time ago. From that moment the procedure for expelling people was closed; Algeria won't accept people being repatriated."

He addresses a couple of myths, one that migrants are brought by a mother ship and then put onto boats near the coast. "That's completely false. They arrive by boat on the direct Algeria-Mallorca route. They've been coming for centuries."

Another is that migrants are fleeing war and hunger. "In Algeria there is no war and therefore they are not fleeing from any armed conflict. There is hunger like anywhere else, but there is also aid and there are social services. The reasons are very different, such as those for people who arrive relatively well dressed and with the latest generation phones."