Search for missing migrants as boat runs into trouble off Morocco

Dozens of people pulled from water near Spanish north African enclave of Melilla

Four people have died and 16 are missing after a boat carrying 78 migrants got into difficulties while travelling from Morocco to Spain.

Spain’s maritime rescue service dispatched a boat, a helicopter and a spotter plane on Tuesday night after receiving news from an NGO that a boat was adrift after setting off from Charrana, Morocco, carrying dozens of people.

A spokeswoman for the Salvamento Marítimo said rescuers had saved 62 people from the water 36 miles north-east of the Spanish north African enclave of Melilla at 9.40pm.

“Three of them were already dead,” she said. “They were taken to Melilla, where they arrived at 11pm. The death of a fourth person was later confirmed. Fifty-eight people survived and four died.”

The spokeswoman could not confirm reports that the boat had overturned.

She said a plane and a rescue boat were searching for the missing 16 people and were also on the lookout for another boat that left Morocco on Tuesday afternoon, carrying 73 people.

Twenty-one people died in a shipwreck off the Italian island of Lampedusa last Saturday when a boat carrying 170 migrants capsized a mile off the coast while it was being escorted by coastguards.

According to the International Organisation for Migration, 22,970 people have arrived in Spain by sea so far this year, and 325 people have died in the attempt.

In 2018, 56,480 migrants and refugees reached Spain by sea, with 769 people dying as they tried to cross. The record number of arrivals to Spain, driven partly by the closure of other European routes, placed huge strain on the country’s reception infrastructure.

It was also seized on by conservative and far-right parties who sought to make it a political issue.


Sam Jones in Madrid

The GuardianTramp

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