On Wednesday afternoon, beachgoers in Zahara de los Atunes, in southern Spain, looked toward the sea and saw a dinghy filled with migrants heading to shore.
Footage later posted to social media showed the migrants reaching land and then running across the beach, as sunbathers looked on in apparent surprise. Spanish media reported that about 40 migrants were on the boat.
In one video, an onlooker can be heard saying, “What's going on?”
Although it is unclear where the boat departed from, it is likely to have come from Morocco. Zahara de los Atunes is one of the southernmost parts of Spain: The beach, popular with tourists and known for its tuna, is less than eight miles from the coast of North Africa.
The video may provide a glimpse of changing trends in the routes taken by Mediterranean migrants. Over the past few years, migrants from North Africa and the Middle East have tended to go from Libya to Italy or through Turkey to Greece.
However, Spain has become an increasingly attractive route for migrants and smugglers this year. According to data compiled by the International Organization for Migration, between the start of the year and July 16, 7,389 migrants had arrived in Spain on what is known as the “Western Mediterranean Route.”
Though that figure is still far off the number that have arrived in Italy in the same period — the IOM estimates that 93,357 arrived on the “Central Mediterranean Route” — it is a dramatic increase over 2016, when 2,476 arrived in the first half of the year. The IOM said 115 people have died along the route this year, compared with 87 last year. Overall, the numbers of migrants crossing the Mediterranean have dropped dramatically this year, mostly because of the rapid decline in the number arriving in places like Greece and Cyprus.
One migrant who had unsuccessfully tried to get to Europe via Libya last year recently told Reuters that the chaos and violence in that country were leading migrants to consider other routes.
“People are talking about going to Spain. It seems like it is safer to go through Morocco to Spain than through Libya. The difference is that Libya doesn't have a president and Morocco does — there are not guns like in Libya,” Buba Fubareh, a 27-year-old mason from Banjul, Gambia, told the news agency.