MADRID (Reuters) – At least 17 migrants have died in the past 24 hours while trying to cross the sea from North Africa to Spain, and rescuers picked up more than 100 others, the Spanish coast guard said on Monday.
Two rafts were found in the Western Mediterranean between the Iberian peninsula and Morocco and Algeria with 80 people aboard and 13 dead. They were taken to the Spanish North African enclave of Melilla, the coast guard said.
The coast guard also found four bodies and rescued 22 men in the Atlantic off the southern Spanish city of Cadiz.
Spain has now become the main destination for undocumented migrants and refugees from Africa and the Middle East trying to reach Europe.
More than 47,000 people made the treacherous journey to Spain, often on flimsy dinghies and rafts, from Jan. 1 to Oct. 30, according to the United Nation’s International Organization for Migration (IOM). Almost 600 deaths have been recorded in that same period, the IOM said.
Through 2018, there have been almost 100,000 arrivals throughout the whole Mediterranean, and almost 2,000 missing or dead, though that is down from the same period in 2017 when 148,000 arrived by sea and almost 3,000 perished.
(Reporting by Paul Day; Editing by Angus MacSwan)