Fifteen people have been arrested in Spain this month for smuggling migrants across the Strait of Gibraltar on the back of high-powered jet skis.
Each smuggler can carry one or two migrants while they make the eight-mile journey from Morocco to southern Spain across one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, The Local says. When they arrive, they ditch the migrants in shallow waters before speeding back to Morocco.
If they spot police patrols approaching them they will often throw the migrants overboard at full speed before escaping.
In the space of 72 hours alone, Spanish police intercepted six jet skis before chasing seven people through the coastal town of Tarifa. On another occasion they had to rescue two migrants and a people smuggler who had fallen into the sea in rough conditions and were in danger of drowning.
A spokesman said: “These journeys are posing a serious risk to the lives of the immigrants because the pilots of the jet skis frequently ditch them into the water several metres away from the coast.
“Worse still, if they spot the Civil Guard, they will dump their passengers in the middle, regardless of the fact that many of them can’t swim.”
Some migrants also have drugs attached to them or sewn into special compartments in their clothing. Some have even been caught carrying up to 66lbs (30kg) of hashish as smugglers see an opportunity to make even more money. Such an amount could have a street value of up to €48,000 (£35,000/$54,000) in Spain.
The spokesman added: “This is a more luxurious way to cross to Spain than in a dinghy or in the back of a lorry but it is far more dangerous. Often migrants don’t know how to swim.”