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Migrants drown off coast of Western Sahara

A vehicle of the royal Moroccan armed forces is seen on the Moroccan side of border crossing point between Morocco and Mauritania in Guerguerat located in the Western Sahara, on 25 November 2020, after the intervention of Moroccan army in the area. [FADEL SENNA/AFP via Getty Images]
A vehicle of the royal Moroccan armed forces in the Western Sahara, on 25 November 2020, [FADEL SENNA/AFP via Getty Images]

Forty-four irregular migrants drowned on Sunday when their boat capsized off the coast of the disputed region of Western Sahara, the Spanish migrant aid agency Caminando Fronteras has reported.

Spokesperson Helena Maleno said that the incident took place off the coast of Cape Boujdour. She explained that seven bodies have so far been recovered from the sea and brought back to shore. Twelve people who survived have been arrested by the authorities. The NGO usually relies on calls it receives from immigrants or those close to them in order to verify details of such incidents.

Attempts to migrate to the Spanish Canary Islands from the southern coasts of Morocco and Western Sahara often result in people losing their lives in the Atlantic Ocean. The Moroccan authorities have in recent months announced the interception or rescue of hundreds of migrants in separate incidents, as well as the dismantling of several people smuggling networks.

According to official figures, Morocco has thwarted more than 14,700 illegal immigration attempts, and dismantled 52 people smuggling networks. Nevertheless, more than 40,000 immigrants arrived in Spain last year, most of them from Morocco.

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