An increasing number of migrants are crossing into Spain by sea from north Africa, making it the fastest growing entry point into Europe. Some 6,800 migrants arrived by sea between January and May 2017, a 75 percent increase from 2016. In June, the trend was even more pronounced as 1,900 migrants reached the shores of Andalusia, quadrupling the numbers registered in the same month last year.

Migrant arrivals on the Spanish coastline averaged just under 5,000 a year between 2010 and 2016, according to government data. It is on track to top 11,000 this year, government data shows. Although the Libya-Italy sea route remains the most popular overall with 59,000 migrants between January and May, the Spanish route is becoming more popular – and Italy's new plans to curb migrant flow may make Spain even more attractive.

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Red Cross volunteers help migrants to disembark at the port of Tarifa after 143 Moroccans and nine sub-Saharans were rescued in the waters of the Strait of Gibraltar on 24 June 2017Marcos Moreno/AFP
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Some of the 224 migrants rescued in the waters of the Strait of Gibraltar when trying to reach Spain on board five makeshift boats rest at the port of Tarifa on 24 June 2017Marcos Moreno/AFP
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Moroccan migrants rest at the port of Barbate after being rescued in waters of the Strait of Gibraltar off the Spanish coast on 7 July 2017Marcos Moreno/AFP
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Migrants, who were intercepted aboard a dinghy in the Mediterranean stand on a rescue boat upon arriving at a port in Malaga on 2 March 2017Jon Nazca/Reuters
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Migrants who were intercepted aboard a dinghy off the coast of Spain stand inside a tent after arriving on a rescue boat at a port in Malaga on 26 February 2017Jon Nazca/Reuters

For those who don't want to risk the Mediterranean, there is another way to get from Africa into Spain – on foot. Migrants frequently jump or cut through the fences separating Morocco from Spain's two enclaves in northern Africa, Ceuta and Melilla. Although Ceuta and Melilla are on the African mainland, Spain claims both territories are integral part of their nation and they have been given the status of semi-autonomous regions on Spanish mainland.

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A golfer hits a tee shot as African migrants sit atop a border fence during an attempt to cross into Spanish territories between Morocco and Spain's north African enclave of Melilla on 22 October 2014Jose Palazon/Reuters

The number of migrants entering Spain via Ceuta and Melilla more than doubled in the first six months of the year from the same period last year to 3,200 people, according to Spain's Interior Ministry. Once within the enclaves, migrants are either returned to their country of origin or moved to the Spanish mainland, which many use as a jumping-off point for the rest of Europe.

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The border fence that separates Morocco from the Spanish enclave of MelillaDavid Ramos/Getty Images
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The border fence that separates Morocco from the Spanish enclave of Melilla extends out into the seaDavid Ramos/Getty Images
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Would-be immigrants are pictured on the border fence separating Morocco from the Spanish enclave of Melilla on 19 February 2015Angela Rios/AFP
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A jogger on the Spanish side looks at would-be immigrants from Africa sitting on the fence after scrambling over two other border barriers on 13 August 2014AFP
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A Moroccan official runs after a migrant who forced his way through a fence between Morocco and the tiny Spanish enclave of Ceuta on 18 February 2017Fadel Senna/FP
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An African migrant shows off spiked shoes and hooks used for climbing the border fence from Morocco to Spain's North African enclave of Melilla on 26 June 2016Jesus Blasco de Avellaneda/Reuters
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An African migrant reacts after arriving at CETI, the short-stay immigrant centre in Spain's enclave of MelillaJesus Blasco de Avellaneda/Reuters
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The fence between the Moroccan town of Fnideq and the tiny Spanish enclave of CeutaFadel Senna/AFP
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Migrants celebrate after forcing their way through a fence between Morocco and the tiny Spanish enclave of Ceuta on 17 February 2017Antionio Sempere/AFP

Around 70 sub-Saharan African migrants crossed the razor-wire-topped fence separating Morocco from Ceuta on Tuesday 1 August, leaving 14 people hospitalised.

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African migrants celebrate after crossing the border fence from Morocco to Spain's North African enclave of Ceuta on 1 August 2017Jesus Moron/Reuters
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A police officer stands over an African migrant who crossed the border fence from Morocco to Spain's North African enclave of Ceuta on 1 August 2017Jesus Moron/Reuters
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A policeman looks at an African migrant's injuries sustained while crossing the border fence from Morocco to Ceuta on 1 August 2017Jesus Moron/Reuters

Helena Maleno, founder of Walking Borders, a nongovernmental organisation working on migration issues in northern Africa, said people fleeing poverty or violence elsewhere in Africa and in the Middle East are increasingly going via Morocco because "it is now being perceived – not as safer – but at least as less dangerous than going through Libya." Many African migrants passing through Libya have reported having been beaten up, detained in camps with no food or water and even traded as slaves before being held for ransom, forced labour or sexual exploitation.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said the spike in migrant numbers is already putting a lot of stress on Spain's insufficient migration structures. The country is unprepared to handle vulnerable groups such as victims of trafficking or unaccompanied minors and refugees who should be channelled through asylum procedures, the UNHCR said.

"What is clear is that, they (Spain's government) have to get ready. They can't be caught unprepared. What started happening elsewhere in Europe in 2015 can't be allowed to happen here," Maria Jesus Vega, spokeswoman for the UNHCR in Spain, said. "It's not yet an emergency, but you have to take into account that there are no structures here to deal with more arrivals."

Asylum seekers and other migrants arriving in Spain by sea are detained for up to 72 hours in dank, dark cells in police facilities for identification and processing. "Dark, cage-like police cells are no place to hold asylum seekers and migrants who reach Spain," said Judith Sunderland, associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "Spain is violating migrants' rights, and there is no evidence it serves as a deterrent to others."

The majority of adult men and women are then sent to immigration detention centres for a maximum of 60 days, pending deportation. If they cannot be deported they are released but have no legal right to remain and are under obligation to leave the country.