The Spanish coastguard reported four migrants dead and 16 more missing on Wednesday, November 27, after an attempt to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe failed. The migrants were traveling on a small raft that sank near the Spanish enclave Melilla.
The raft was “found drifting around 37 miles off the coast of Morocco on Tuesday night,” reported the news agency Reuters. There were thought to be about 78 people originally on board. “Three bodies were recovered from the water and another migrant died after being taken to shore,” a spokesperson for the Spanish coastguard told Reuters.
After being rescued, the surviving migrants were transported to the Spanish enclave Melilla, in North Africa. According to the German news agency DPA, Melilla is located about 60 kilometers south of the point where the raft was found.
Reuters report that one of their photographers observed “survivors being helped ashore and given medical assistance by the Red Cross.” The photographer said that the survivors were given thermal blankets and that some “appeared to be in a state of shock after the ordeal.”
The Spanish TV channel Público tweeted a photo of the rescued migrants along with a video report of some of the emergency services helping them once they were on land.
On Wednesday it was reported that both European and Spanish authorities are searching for a further 16 missing people, believed to have been on the same raft. A second boat, also reportedly carrying 78 migrants, is believed to have set off from Morocco on Tuesday night, it has not yet been located.
The German news agency dpa reports that most of the rescued migrants are being treated in hospitals in Melilla and that three of the adults were in a “serious condition.”
The International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) Missing Migrants project has recorded 1,136 deaths so far this year across the whole of the Mediterranean; 128 in November alone in the same region. On the same website, in the western Mediterranean 108 deaths were recorded in September 2019, the highest so far for crossings to Spain this year.
The Missing Migrants project states that between January and November 2019 22,387 people had attempted to cross into Spain; until now there had been 325 deaths recorded. The numbers arriving in Spain were significantly down on 2018’s figures which were slightly more than double at 53,512 attempted crossings. Total deaths on crossings in the western Mediterranean region in 2018 reached 731 for the year.
Dpa reports that one of the reasons for the reduction in crossing attempts in this part of the Mediterranean was improved cooperation with the Moroccan government.