The Atlantic Ocean has claimed the lives of at least seven people off the coast of Casablanca, Morocco | Photo: picture alliance/M. Elshamy
The Atlantic Ocean has claimed the lives of at least seven people off the coast of Casablanca, Morocco | Photo: picture alliance/M. Elshamy

At least 12 Moroccans have died after their boat was shipwrecked trying to reach Spain. Their bodies were found washed ashore on the Atlantic coast near Casablanca.

The bodies of seven Moroccans, including one woman, were found on Saturday washed up at Ain Harrouda, 17 kilometers from Casablanca on Morocco's Atlantic coast. Moroccan officials said they had been trying to get to Spain in an inflatable boat which had capsized.

Three other people were found unconscious and taken to hospital, according to the MAP press agency. Search operations continued on Saturday. It is not known how many people were on board the boat. 

Since January, more than 15,000 migrants have arrived in Spain by sea, according to Spanish authorities. Many migrants leave from Morocco's northern Mediterranean coast, which is only 14 kilometers from the south of Spain.

Late Monday, the bodies of five more Moroccans were recovered, raising the death toll to at least 12, local officials said. It was unclear how many people were on the boat, and rescue workers have kept up their search.

Fewer migrants arriving in Spain

Overall, arrivals to Spain by sea have decreased significantly this year. UN migration agency (IOM) figures show that the number of people reaching Spain irregularly by sea between January 1 and September 18, 2019 has roughly halved compared with the same period last year.

Moroccan authorities say they stopped about 89,000 "irregular immigration attempts" last year, of which 29,000 were by sea. Between January 1 and September 1 this year, Reuters reports, they stopped 57,000 migrants from making the crossing to Spain.

Last month, the Spanish government approved 32.2 million euros in aid to Morocco to prevent irregular migration. The European Union has also committed 140 million euros towards managing migration from Morocco. 

Most of the migrants leaving Morocco for Spain come from West African countries, but in the past two years, increasing numbers of young Moroccans have tried to leave.

With material from AFP, Reuters

 

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