Two migrants died over the weekend when their boat capsized off the coast of Morocco. Separately, more than 200 others were detained as they prepared to leave Morocco by sea, according to Moroccan state media.
The bodies of two migrants washed up "after a boat capsized," news agency AFP reported Sunday (March 27) citing Moroccan state news agency MAP.
Separately, on Friday and Saturday, Moroccan authorities arrested 236 migrants in the southern province of Tarfaya and the city of Laayoune, according to AFP. Laayoune is the main city in the disputed territory of Western Sahara.
The migrants were reportedly seeking to cross to Spain's Canary Islands. Fuerteventura, one of the seven main islands that make up the Atlantic archipelago, is located some 100 kilometers west of Tarfaya. The southwestern Moroccan coastal town has been a key transit point for migrants seeking to reach Europe, according to AFP.
Security forces have "recently intensified operations to control illegal immigration attempts in the region", AFP reported, citing MAP.
Read more: 120 migrants picked up by Moroccan navy
Tension over Western Sahara
Earlier this month, Spain endorsed a Moroccan plan for an autonomous Western Sahara region -- where the Polisario Front movement seeks independence --, calling the agreement "a new phase in relations" in ties with Morocco. The announcement by Spain marked a policy shift from the EU member state's previous stance on the Moroccan government's plan.
The about-face by the territory's former colonial power, which until then had tried to appear neutral on the issue, sparked condemnation from the Polisario Front and its backer Algeria, Morocco's neighbor to the East and South.
Relations between Spain and Morocco hit a low in April 2021 when Spain allowed Brahim Ghali, the leader of the Polisario Front, to travel to Spain for medical treatment.
The following month, some 10,000 migrants from neighboring Morocco swam or used small inflatable boats to enter the tiny Spanish enclave of Ceuta as Moroccan border forces looked the other way. Heightened diplomatic tensions between Madrid and Rabat appear to have been behind the explosion in border-crossings.
Read more: Morocco rescues 331 migrants over four days