At least 44 migrants drowned after their boat sank on Sunday off Western Sahara in southern Morocco, the Spanish NGO Caminando Fronteras said.
Moroccan authorities are yet to confirm the deaths. However, according to Helena Maleno, the founder of the NGO Caminando Fronteras, 44 migrants died after their boat sank off Cape Boujdour, Western Sahara.
"Seven bodies were transferred to the morgue and the other victims were swallowed by the sea," she added on Twitter. Twelve other migrants survived the sinking and were arrested, according to the same source.
Helena Malenon did not specify the destination of the boat, but migrant boats departing from this area usually head for the Spanish archipelago of the Canaries. Located at the north-western tip of Africa, Morocco is a transit country for many migrants seeking to reach Europe from its Atlantic or Mediterranean coasts.
According to figures from the Moroccan Ministry of the Interior, more than 14,700 attempted illegal departures were prevented and 52 smuggling networks dismantled in Morocco during the first quarter of 2022.
In 2021, 4,404 migrants died or disappeared during their sea crossing to Spain, the worst toll since 2015, according to Caminando Fronteras, which keeps track of these migration tragedies thanks to calls from migrants or their relatives on its emergency numbers.
According to the latest figures from the Spanish Interior Ministry, more than 40,000 migrants, mostly from Morocco, arrived in the country by sea in 2021, as well as in the Balearic and Canary Islands.