MADRID: At least 17 people have died while attempting to cross from Morocco to Spain, Spanish Maritime Rescue Services confirmed on Tuesday. The Government Delegate in the Spanish North-African enclave of Melilla reported that the bodies of 13 people, who were attempting to cross the Mediterranean from Morocco to Spain in two dinghies, were recovered by the rescue vessel “Guardamar Polimina”.
The crew of the Guardamar Polimina were able to save a further 80 migrants, including five women, who were also travelling in the dinghies. The rescued have been taken to the Temporary Immigrant Center (CETI) in Melilla.
A further four migrants died in the province of Cadiz, southwest Spain after the dinghy they were travelling in hit rocks off a beach known as “Los Canos de Meca”.
The Spanish media report that 40 Moroccans were in the dinghy and that 22 have been detained.
However, Civil Protection units are still searching the area as it is not known whether the 14 people unaccounted for were able to survive.
The Civil Guard’s Chief of Operations in the region told the media that rivalry between gangs of people traffickers was one of the reasons behind the tragedies.
“They are constantly competing to lowering the price of the crossing and to do that they put the lives of these people at risk. We have seen the results of that this morning,” commented Lieutenant-Colonel Luis Martin.
This tragedy comes a day after the Spanish Interior Ministry and the International Organization for Migration on Monday published figures which showed that an estimated 564 people lost their lives attempting to cross from North Africa to Spain during the first 10 months of 2018.