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More than 40 people drown off Western Sahara, says charity

Twelve survived the incident and seven bodies were brought back to shore, according to Caminando Fronteras
Caminando Fronteras says 4,404 people died or went missing as they tried to reach Spain in 2021 (File pic/AFP)

At least 44 people drowned on Sunday when their boat capsized off the coast of the Western Sahara, migrant aid agency Caminando Fronteras said.

Twelve others survived the incident, which happened when the boat sunk off the coast of Cap Boujdour, the agency's Helena Maleno tweeted.

The survivors were arrested, Maleno wrote.
 
The bodies of seven people were brought back to shore but the others could not be retrieved, she added.

There was no immediate confirmation from authorities in Morocco, which sees the disputed Western Sahara as an integral part of the kingdom.

It was not clear where the boat was heading, but usually migrants leaving from that area try to reach Spain's Canary Islands.

Morocco is a key transit point on routes taken by those hoping for better lives in Europe.

Smuggling networks

On Friday, Morocco and Spain said in a joint statement they were committed to strengthening co-operation on irregular migration, AFP reported.

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More than 14,700 attempted departures were prevented and 52 human smuggling networks broken up in Morocco during the first three months of this year, according to interior ministry figures.

Moroccan authorities stopped more than 63,120 crossings last year and shut down 256 smuggling networks.

According to the Spanish interior ministry, more than 40,000 migrants arrived in the country by sea in 2021.

That same year, according to Caminando Fronteras, 4,404 people died or went missing as they tried to reach Spain.