Abandoned on a tiny shadeless island for 15 years, eating seagulls

A corvette drops anchor near a small island, lost in the Indian Ocean, on November 29, 1776. The island seems completely deserted, a stretch of white sand with a few palm trees. Yet the sailors discover a baby and seven women, all former slaves from Madagascar. Dressed in tunics of woven feathers, they are the only survivors of a shipwreck 15 years earlier. They survived by eating birds, turtles and shellfish.

The 26 African immigrants that were picked up by a Spanish fishing trawler in the open Mediterranean earlier this week have been transferred to a Spanish rescue ship, the transport ministry said.

The immigrants were taken aboard the Clara Campoamor some 40 maritime miles off the Italian island of Sicily, it said in a statement. The ship will now take them to the northeastern Spanish port of Tarragona.

Conditions aboard the trawler Montfalco were difficult due to a lack of supplies and limited space but the 26 Africans who are believed to be from the Ivory Coast were in good health, it added.

Italy, Libya and Malta refused to allow the would-be immigrants to disembark arguing the Africans were in international waters when they were rescued by the Spanish trawler despite appeals from Madrid for them to do so.

Spanish Employment and Social Affairs Minister Jesus Caldera appealed to all nations in the European Union to respect laws regarding rescues in the open waters, which he said had not occurred in this case.

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