updated 10/5/2006 9:30:51 AM ET 2006-10-05T13:30:51

Twenty would-be migrants drowned in the sea while trying to reach Spain’s Canary Islands on Thursday, a government official in the islands said.

Eleven survivors, including four children, picked up by a merchant vessel told Spanish officials in Gran Canaria how 20 others had drowned when their rubber boat broke up before dawn, Spanish state radio said.

About 25,000 Africans have arrived in the Canary Islands this year after dangerous trips of more than 600 miles from West Africa.

Most of the migrants arrive in open wooden boats with outboard motors and officials say many drown or die of thirst or exposure in the attempt.

The upsurge in arrivals has made immigration one of Spain’s biggest political issues and the government has put pressure on African countries to accept the return of as many of their citizens as possible.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

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