A boat of about 200 migrants most believed to be from Pakistan was waiting off the Mauritanian coast Monday after the West African country refused to receive the craft intercepted by Spanish authorities.
Mauritania "is not involved with this boat or its occupants, and has refused to give permission for the boat to land," government spokesman Babah Sidi Abdallah said.
Mauritania has agreed to help in the repatriation of migrants that use the country as a launching point, but Abdallah said this boat appeared to have left from Guinea-Bissau, a country much further south along the coast.
The migrants were rescued by a Spanish vessel on Saturday after their boat broke down off the coast of West Africa, according to the Spanish Foreign Ministry
The Foreign Ministry said the Spanish vessel originally planned to tow the migrant boat to the nearest safe port in Senegal, but the Senegalese government said it was not equipped to help the migrants, reports AP.
More than 24,000 people were caught trying to reach Spain's Canary Islands last year in boats from West Africa. Most of those taking the crowded wooden boats are African, but undocumented Bangladeshis, Pakistanis and other Asians have also been intercepted. For them, Africa can be the final way station on a much longer voyage to Europe that involves complicated smuggling routes over a number of continents.
The European Union has been patrolling waters along the African coast to try to stem illegal immigration. Spain and France have also promised funding to countries along the coast to help provide other options to those who say the dangerous trip to Europe is their only chance at a better life.