MADRID, July 9, (Agencies): Spain’s maritime rescue service says it has rescued 54 migrants, including one pregnant woman, from a small boat trying to cross the Strait of Gibraltar.
The rescue service says that it intercepted the migrant’s boat early Sunday around five miles (8 kms) south of the Spanish coast near the city of Cadiz. The boat was carrying 44 men and 10 women, one of whom appeared to be pregnant, according to the rescue service.
The maritime service believes the boat left from Morocco. Meanwhile, Libyan coast guards rescued about 85 migrants off the shore east of Tripoli on Saturday but about 40 more migrants were believed to be missing, a coast guard officer said. The migrants were rescued about six miles (10 kms) north-west of the town of Garabulli after fishing boats spotted them at sea, said Muammar Mohamed Milad, a local coast guard official. “Due to the heavy load on the rubber boat, the wooden base got broken and it started sinking,” said Milad.
“According to the survivors about 40 others are missing, including seven children,” he said. The body of one woman was had already been recovered. Garabulli, about 50 kms (30 miles) east of the capital, is a common departure point for migrants trying to reach Europe. Smugglers usually cram the migrants into flimsy rubber boats with homemade wooden bases.
Most make it to international waters where they are picked up by ships and taken to Italy, but some are intercepted by the Libyan coast guard, or break down or sink in Libyan waters. The vast majority of migrants trying to cross to Europe by sea use the central Mediterranean route between Libya and Italy.
More than 85,000 migrants have arrived in Italy so far this year. Some 2,150 are known to have died attempting the crossing over the same period, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The number of migrants arriving on Spain’s southern coast has more than doubled in 2017 from last year as they avoid passing through conflict wracked Libya on their way to Europe. Eight boats carrying 380 people have been rescued since Wednesday in the Alboran Sea, which connects northeastern Morocco and southeastern Spain, in the Western Mediterranean. “We are worried because we are seeing numbers which we have not seen in years. And it’s a dangerous area, where the currents are very strong,” said the spokesman for the Spanish branch of rights group SOS Racisme, Mikel Araguas.
Last week, an inflatable dinghy that had apparently set out from Morocco with 52 people aboard was flipped over after being hit by a strong wave. Only three survivors were rescued by the Spanish coastguard. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) called it “the worst tragedy in the last decade in the Spanish Mediterranean” involving migrants. The Italian sea route remains the most popular for migrants. Italy has accepted around 85,000 of the 100,000 people who have arrived in Europe by sea this year according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).