A picture of migrants struggling to stay above water after their boat capsized | Photo: Reuters
A picture of migrants struggling to stay above water after their boat capsized | Photo: Reuters

At least eight migrants are dead and another 24 are missing after a boat, thought to have been carrying between 90 and 100 migrants, capsized within sight of Spain’s southern coast just before dawn on December 16.

A boat, thought to have been carrying between 90 and 100 migrants capsized in the Mediterranean between Morocco and Spain. Spanish police retrieved the eighth body from the sea off the southern coast of Spain on Tuesday, according to the news agency AFP.

The alarm was raised by the distress hotline Alarm Phone which tweeted "This morning, we were alerted by a boat off Nador, carrying about 90 people, including many women and several children. They were in panic and said they were capsizing."

The Spanish NGO Caminando Fronteras (Walking the borders) later confirmed the shipwreck on Monday, December 16 in a tweet.

According to AFP, the authorities are still looking for at least 24 missing people.

One of the activists who works with Caminando Fronteras, Helena Maleno Garzón tweeted a type of "wake-up-call" on Tuesday, December 17 regarding the capsizing. In it she said that readers should "wake up, drink their coffee and search: [because] 12 people have lost their lives trying to reach Spain whilst others were sleeping. She said they died in the sea because no one got to them in time." Maleno Garzón added that no one took the time to get there when those to be rescued are "poor, black and migrant."

She added in an earlier tweet that the cries of those desperate people on board the boat when they first called Caminando Fronteras to alert them had "ripped open their hearts." Alarm Phone added on Tuesday that details about the accident were still unclear. "We still don't know how many people died off Morocco. The man who called us yesterday said: 'Our boat is pierced, water is coming in. People died, among them children. We can see still see the lights of Morocco, we need help!" 

Alarm Phone added that that call was their last and only contact to the boat.

AFP reported on Tuesday that the Moroccan coastguard retrieved seven bodies from the sea on Monday and had rescued 70 migrants “after they got into difficulty in the Alboran Sea in the western Mediterranean.”

Survivors include ten women and a baby and are said to be in a “very poor state.” AFP reported that the survivors were taken for medical treatment in Nador, in northern Morocco.

According to the UNHCR’s latest figures which were updated on December 16, 2019 more than 30,969 people have reached Spain this year alone. And more than 1,200 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean. In total more than 98,000 people have tried to reach Europe by sea this year. The numbers are down on 2018 and 2017’s arrivals.

On December 10, Caminando Fronteras tweeted that 655 people had died trying to cross the western Mediterranean to Spain and Portugal in 2019. After this latest capsizing, that figure has now become at least 663. 


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