Bathers on a southern Spanish beach watched in amazement when a large dinghy carrying as many as 20 African migrants came ashore in broad daylight before its occupants fled into the surrounding countryside.
The landing, caught on video, took place on Wednesday afternoon in Zahara de los Atunes near Cádiz, 7.7 miles from the coast of north Africa.
Heavy police and coastguard patrols have in recent times forced migrants to use the much longer and more hazardous route from Mauritania to the Canary Islands, but lately there has been an upsurge in crossings via the Strait of Gibraltar.
The Spanish coastguard had earlier received an SOS call from another dinghy and rescued all eight people on board. The Moroccan navy rescued seven people from another vessel.
According to the EU’s Frontex border agency, 7,500 immigrants made the crossing to Spain in the first three months of the year, compared with 3,600 in the same period last year.
In June alone, 2,200 attempted to cross the strait on vessels ranging from inflatable toy boats to high-powered launches.
A Frontex spokesman said the route across the strait had been revived because it was the shortest and because powerful launches of the type employed by drug smugglers meant it was possible to ship a large number of people over in a matter of minutes.
The spokesman said the closure of migrant camps in Morocco and Algeria may be driving migrants to take greater risks.
More than 1,600 people have been rescued off the coast of Cádiz since January. According to the Red Cross, more than 90% are from sub-Saharan Africa.