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Morocco foils migrants’ bid to cross Gibraltar Strait


Some rescued migrants

Some rescued migrants

Morocco’s navy on Friday prevented a group of 40 illegal migrants from crossing the Strait of Gibraltar on makeshift boats headed for Spain, the authorities in Tangiers said.

The authorities “succeeded in foiling an illegal attempt to emigrate by a group of 40 people of sub-Saharan origin”, the MAP news agency reported the prefecture in Tangiers as saying.

It said the migrants, who were all safe and well, “were getting ready to take to sea… on board four inflatable boats, one of which had an engine”.

The group, whose nationalities were not given, was the latest to be intercepted.

On Wednesday, a group of 19 people aboard two inflatables was halted, while on May 2, another 48 were intercepted in similar circumstances.

There are fewer attempts to cross the straits than between Libya and Italy, however.

On Friday, the German navy came to the aid of a boat carrying some 200 migrants about 250 kilometres (155 miles) south of the Italian island of Lampedusa, the defence ministry in Berlin said.

Last year, the Spanish authorities said they had rescued 3,500 migrants sailing aboard makeshift boats, an increase of 55 percent compared with 2013.

More than 5,000 migrants have died trying to reach Europe’s shores in rickety boats over the past 18 months.

Morocco recently completed dismantling illegal settlements on the outskirts of the Spanish enclave of Melilla.

Melilla and Ceuta, another Spanish enclave on Morocco’s northern coast, form the only land border between Europe and Africa.

On Friday, Spanish police in Ceuta found an eight-year-old Ivorian boy hidden in a suitcase that was taken across the border from Morocco by a 19-year-old woman.

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