Bodies of 20 people pulled from the Mediterranean

Agence France-Presse | Sun 4 Feb 2018

Tragedy is latest sign more migrants and refugees are using sea crossing from north Africa to Spain

Moroccan rescue services have recovered the bodies of about 20 migrants and refugees from the Mediterranean, a spokeswoman for the Spanish enclave of Melilla has said.

The bodies were spotted on Saturday by a Spanish ship, which alerted the rescue services of both Morocco and Spain, the spokeswoman said.

She added that about 20 bodies were then recovered in Moroccan territorial waters. Moroccan authorities have yet to issue a figure.

Late on Saturday, a Spanish police patrol boat found one more body, which was taken to Melilla, which borders Morocco.

Migrants and refugees are increasingly favouring the so-called western Mediterranean route to reach Europe, which involves making the sea crossing between north Africa and southern mainland Spain.

According to the International Organization for Migration, Spain has been the second most popular point of entry for refugees and migrants coming to Europe so far this year – with 1,279 arrivals – after Italy, with 4,256.

The IOM said 243 people have died or are missing in the Mediterranean after trying to cross the sea this year, not including those recovered this weekend.

Spain was last year the third point of entry for Europe-bound refugees and migrants, after Italy and Greece. Arrivals by sea tripled in 2017 compared with the previous year, reaching a total of 22,900, according to the EU border agency Frontex.

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