Dozens die in boat accident off Morocco’s coast

At least 45 migrants have lost their lives attempting to cross the Mediterranean from Morocco to Spain, the Moroccan Navy said. All the missing migrants, among whom were pregnant women and a child, came from African countries.

The Moroccan navy rescued 21 migrants, including 13 women, all in critical state; and recovered one body on 14 March 2019. The boat which embarked with 67 migrants on board was rescued a day after it was stranded at sea.

The Caminando Fronteras (Walking Borders) communicated with the migrants in the last two hours before it sank. The non-profit organisation alerts naval authorities about migrant boats in distress at sea between Morocco and Spain.

Helena Maleno, who runs the Morocco-based NGO, said she was contacted on the morning of 13 March 2019 by a family member of migrants on board the boat. However, she was only able to contact the small boat at 3:45 p.m. that day.

The migrants told Maleno they were having trouble keeping their boat afloat. Just over two hours later she said that migrants told her by phone: “We are sinking, the Zodiac is full of water.”

“There was also one young girl, between 12 and 14 years old, who didn’t survive,” said Maleno.

Morocco has seen a surge in the number of migrants using its coast as a gateway for crossing to Europe. This is largely due to Libya intercepting and returning migrants to its shores and Italy blocking migrant rescue ships from its ports.

In 2018, Morocco reported stopping 89,000 people from irregular migration, one-third of whom were rescued at sea. Around 80 per cent of the migrants Morocco blocked were foreigners. The country also said it dismantled 229 migrant trafficking networks.

Almost half of the 112,000 migrants who reached Europe in 2018 through the Mediterranean Sea arrived in Spain from the North African coast.

TMP – 25/03/2019

Photo: Sonia Bonet/Shutterstock. Abandoned Fishing boat on the dock in the morning in Santa Pola, Alicante, Spain