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Dozens Killed as Boats Capsize off Morocco, Libya

Dozens Killed as Boats Capsize off Morocco, Libya

Saturday, 28 September, 2019 - 17:00
Migrants, intercepted off the coast in the Mediterranean Sea, disembark from a rescue boat at the port of Malaga, southern Spain, November 13, 2018. (Reuters)

Seven Moroccan migrants died after their rubber boat capsized off the country's Atlantic coast, local officials said Saturday.

The bodies of six men and a woman were found Saturday off Ain Harouda, just northeast of Casablanca.

Three other people were found unconscious and taken to a hospital.

Search operations continue. An investigation has been opened to determine the cause of the accident.

In Libya, the UN refugee agency and the country’s coast guard said a boat carrying at least 50 Europe-bound migrants has capsized in the Mediterranean Sea.

Coast guard spokesman Ayoub Gassim told The Associated Press that the shipwreck took place off the western city of Misrata.

He did not provide details and said rescuers are on their way to the site.

Alarm Phone, an independent support group for people crossing the Mediterranean, said "about 56 lives at risk."

With the sea route from Libya to Italy increasingly blocked by Libyan coast guard crews as part of a deal with the European Union, Morocco has become a major departure point for African migrants trying to reach Europe.

Morocco is only 14 kilometers south of the Spanish coast at the strait of Gibraltar and shares land borders with the small Spanish enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta on its Mediterranean coast.

Moroccan authorities say they have stopped 57,000 migrants from illegally crossing to Spain between January 1 and September 1.

Figures released by the International Organization for Migration show arrivals to Spain by sea more than halved to 16,894 from January 1 to September 18, compared with 34,238 in the same period last year.

The Spanish government last month approved 32.2 million euros ($35.2 million) in aid to Morocco to combat illegal migration. The European Union has also promised 140 million euros in border management aid.

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