One dead, more than 800 migrants rescued off Morocco coast: state media

One dead, more than 800 migrants rescued off Morocco coast: state media
The Morocco kingdom's navy rescued 845 migrants mostly from sub-Saharan Africa since early last week.
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Morocco, due to its strategic location between Europe and Africa, is a transit point for many migrants [Getty]

Morocco's navy has rescued more than 800 would-be migrants and recovered one body since early last week, state media reported on Tuesday, as attempts to reach Spain increase.

Morocco in northwest Africa is a transit country for many migrants trying to get to Europe via Spain's mainland or its Canary Islands in the Atlantic.

Morocco's state news agency MAP, citing a military source, said the kingdom's navy rescued 845 migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, between July 10 and Monday, around half of them in territorial waters off the country's south.

During the operations, rescuers recovered one body, the source said.

Spain's Canary Islands are only about 150 kilometres (93 miles) off southern Morocco.

The Spanish islands have long been a draw for migrants seeking a better life in Europe, with many boats setting off from the coastline of Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania and Senegal.

But the Atlantic route to the Canaries is particularly dangerous due to the strong currents, with migrants travelling in overloaded wooden boats known as pirogues that are often unseaworthy, and without enough drinking water.

AlarmPhone, which runs a hotline for migrants in distress at sea, on Tuesday tweeted that "24 people died in a shipwreck" off the disputed Western Sahara territory.

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The boat which capsized two days ago carried 61 people, 37 of whom survived, the group said.

This information was not confirmed by Moroccan authorities.

Spain's coastguard was last week searching for three boats carrying about 300 migrants reported lost by Caminando Fronteras, a Spanish NGO that helps migrant vessels in distress.

Atlantic crossings began surging in late 2019 after increased patrols along Europe's southern coast dramatically reduced Mediterranean crossings.

In the first six months of 2023, 7,213 migrants reached the Canary Islands by boat, Spanish interior ministry figures show.

Moroccan authorities say they disrupted 26,000 irregular migration attempts in the first five months of this year. For all of last year the figure was around 71,000, the interior ministry said.