Forty-four drown after boat capsizes off Western Sahara: Charity

Twelve others survived when their boat sunk off the coast of Cape Boujdour, a migrant aid agency says.

At least 44 migrants and refugees drowned when their boat capsized off the coast of Morocco’s disputed region of Western Sahara, migrant aid agency Caminando Fronteras has said.

Twelve others survived the tragedy that happened on Sunday when the boat sunk off the coast of Cape Boujdour, the agency’s Helena Maleno tweeted. The survivors were arrested, Maleno wrote.

The bodies of seven victims were brought back to shore but the others could not be retrieved, she said.

There was no immediate confirmation from authorities in Morocco, which sees Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, as an integral part of the North African kingdom.

It was not clear where the boat was heading, but usually, migrants leaving from that area try to reach Spain’s Canary Islands.

Morocco is a key transit point on routes taken by migrants and refugees hoping to reach Europe to seek better lives.

On Friday, Morocco and Spain said in a joint statement they were committed to strengthening cooperation on irregular migration.

More than 14,700 attempted irregular departures were prevented and 52 human smuggling networks were broken up in Morocco during the first three months of this year, according to interior ministry figures.

Moroccan authorities stopped more than 63,120 crossings last year and shut down 256 smuggling networks.

According to the Spanish interior ministry, more than 40,000 migrants arrived in the country by sea in 2021.

That same year, according to Caminando Fronteras, 4,404 migrants died or went missing as they tried to reach Spain.

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