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Boat capsizes in Atlantic off Morocco, leaves 22 migrants missing

Migrants had been trying to reach Spanish territory of Canary Islands
Moroccan authorities say between January and end of September they stopped about 68,000 illegal attempts to cross into Europe (AFP/file photo)

Twenty-two migrants are missing in the waters off Morocco's Atlantic coast after their boat capsized, state news agency MAP reported on Sunday.

Three people, all with Moroccan nationality, managed to swim to shore and alert the authorities after the vessel hit trouble off the southern province of Tiznit, the outlet said.

It did not give the nationalities of the others on board the boat and said an investigation had been opened into the incident.

Local media said the migrants had been aiming to reach the Canary Islands about 100 kilometres (62 miles) west of the Moroccan coast.

In an ongoing crackdown, sub-Saharan migrants in Morocco are facing arbitrary arrest, banishment to remote sections of the country and, lately, outright expulsion, analysts and rights advocates told the New York Times last month.

Rights advocates contend that the raids, which government officials acknowledge, began in the summer and were coordinated with Spain and the European Union to stem the tide of migrants to the Continent, the Times said.

Moroccan authorities say that between January and the end of September they stopped about 68,000 illegal attempts to cross into Europe and took down 122 people from smuggling gangs.

The International Organization for Migration says that 50,500 migrants have arrived in Spain by sea this year and that 566 have died or gone missing trying.