LONDON, Aug. 30 (UPI) -- The European Commission Wednesday pledged to step up efforts to curb illegal immigration, as Spain struggled to cope with a large influx from West Africa.
Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini said he would back a Spanish request to extend an EU border control operation in the Canary Islands, and establish a high level group in the Commission to address immigration issues.
He would also urge member states to provide Spain with more help, increase the funds available for border control, and strengthen the new EU border control agency Frontex, he said.
Frattini was responding to Spain's appeal for more help dealing with the unprecedented flow of migrants from Senegal, Mauritania and Cape Verde by sea to the Spanish territory of the Canary Islands.
Earlier this month, the European Union launched a border patrol operation to turn back small boats transporting the migrants to the islands, but Madrid says it is not sufficiently extensive. Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said Spain needed "more boats, more planes, more personnel."
Frattini said he would support Spain's request for the operation to be extended from the planned nine weeks to the end of the year.
More migrants arrived in the Canary Islands in August than in the whole of 2005. Almost 19,000 have arrived so far this year, mostly from Africa. As the islands' detention centers have space for just 5,500, many have been transferred to the mainland, and Red Cross shelters in Madrid are reportedly full.
The authorities on the Canary Islands raised concerns Saturday about the arrival of some 700 unaccompanied children among the migrants, saying it did not have sufficient resources to care for them properly.