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Morocco Says Over 550 Migrants Intercepted in 10 Days

Morocco’s navy has intercepted 552 migrants attempting to reach Europe over 10 days in both the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, a military source told state media on Thursday.

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

According to the United Nations, the first quarter of 2023 was the deadliest since 2017 for Europe-bound migrants in the Mediterranean.

“Coastguards of the kingdom’s navy operating in the Mediterranean and Atlantic rescued 552 illegal migrants of varying nationalities between April 8 and 18,” mostly from sub-Saharan African countries, the military source told official news agency MAP.

The source said among them were people attempting the crossing aboard makeshift boats, in canoes, on jet skis and “even swimming”.

Earlier this month 11 migrants — eight Moroccans and three from other African countries — drowned when their boat sank in the Atlantic as they were trying to reach the Canaries.

Mohammed Ben Aisa, a migrant rights activist, said migrants usually pick days such as during the fasting month of Ramadan, religious feasts, or when security forces swap positions to attempt crossings, thinking security would be less tight during these times.

In June 2022, Moroccan authorities said 23 migrants died in a mass attempted storming of the border around Melilla, another Spanish enclave in northern Morocco. Some human rights activists have said the death toll was higher.

Arrivals from Morocco into Spain dropped last year after the two countries patched up a separate diplomatic feud, since when they have increased cooperation to reduce migration and Morocco has taken more active measures to prevent migrants trying to cross into Spain or Spanish enclaves.

Source: newarab