The rafts arrive daily now, in fair weather or foul, dozens of migrants crammed on to small, inflatable dinghies more suitable for a pleasure lake than the open sea. Most do not have enough fuel for the crossing; others use oars, not motors.
Along Spain's southern coastline, locals have been horrified by bodies washed up from sunken rafts: among them, a boy of 6 or 7 found on a Cádiz beach last January, and another, aged between 8 and 10, in a national park in Almería in June.
In July, 49 sub-Saharan Africans died when their raft sank near the island of Alborán, a rocky outpost halfway between Morocco and Spain that has become the country's equivalent of Italy's Lampedusa.
Arrivals to Spain by sea almost tripled in 2017, making the so-called Western Mediterranean route from Morocco the fastest-growing gateway to Europe, as the EU clamps down on entries elsewhere. By December 20, 21,468 people had arrived in Spain on migrant boats, compared with 7490 in 2016 and 4408 in 2015.
The arrivals have left Spain's holding centres overflowing. In November, more than 500 mostly Algerian migrants who arrived in Murcia on 49 rafts in a single weekend were detained in an unfinished prison — Malaga 2 — despite the facility lacking drinking water, heating or healthcare. Last weekend, protests broke out outside the jail after a 36-year-old man was found dead in his cell, with demonstrators demanding an investigation into alleged mistreatment and violence towards detainees.
Arantxa Triguero, the president of the refugee group Malaga Welcomes, said the EU needs to provide more resources, claiming that Spain and other Mediterranean countries had been left to deal with the crisis alone.
But unlike elsewhere, the story of maritime migration to Spain is not, principally, one of death. Some 210 migrants perished at sea attempting to reach the country last year — a figure that represents less than one per cent of those making the voyage — according to the International Organisation for Migration.
The rescue team in Almería is rightly proud of the survival rate, which they attribute to two factors. First, the Western Mediterranean route is an old one, meaning they are experienced hands.
The other factor, they say, is a Spanish activist, Helena Maleno Garzón, who since 2012 has worked with migrants through her Tangier-based NGO, Walking Borders. The Spanish coastguards work so closely with Maleno that she has become their primary alert system for departing boats. She has, they say, saved "thousands" of lives. Maleno is able to give them precise information on the place and time that rafts have left the Moroccan coast — invaluable, they say, in the attempt to pinpoint their location and deploy rescuers.
Embarrassed and under pressure, Moroccan authorities have set their sights on Maleno.
She faces allegations that she is collaborating with people traffickers. Maleno emphatically dismissed such claims. "Saving lives is not a crime," she said.
At the Maritime Rescue centre in Almería, Captain Miguel Zea said the crackdown on migration via Libya was fuelling the surge in arrivals. The coastguards are "indignant" over the Moroccan court case against Maleno. If she is jailed, it will be an enormous blow to Spanish rescue operations, Zea said. He warned: "More people are going to die."