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Nearly 50 migrants plucked from waters off Spain's Gran Canaria

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GRAN CANARIA (Reuters) - Spain’s coast guard rescued 49 African migrants from a dinghy drifting a few miles off the coast of Gran Canaria on Sunday, a spokesman for the organisation said, the latest arrivals in a months-long surge of migration to the Canary Islands.

A fisherman spotted the dinghy and alerted the coast guard, which brought it and its occupants to the port of Arguineguin, he added.

All the people found on board were male, and 35 of them were believed to be under 18, according to the Red Cross, which takes in illegal migrants who make it to the islands.

As they stepped ashore, Red Cross staff wearing masks, gloves and goggles took the migrants’ temperature, before wrapping them in blankets and ushering them into tents set up near the harbour.

Data from Spain’s Interior Ministry show irregular migration to the Canaries is up nearly 700% so far this year, with 1,936 arrivals reported by the end of April compared with just 243 last year.

Overall migration to Spain is down around 24% over the same period.

Reporting by Borja Suarez in Gran Canaria and Nathan Allen in Madrid; Editing by Jan Harvey