Morocco intercepts 257 migrants at sea heading to Europe
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Morocco's navy has intercepted 257 migrants at sea in four days, state media reported Tuesday, two weeks after at least 23 migrants were killed in a border stampede.
"Navy coast guards on maritime patrol in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, rescued... 257 people attempting irregular migration, having attempted a perilous crossing aboard makeshift boats, kayaks and even swimming," said the unnamed military official, quoted by the official MAP news agency.
Most came from African nations, but also included an Afghan and a Yemeni, it reported, adding that they were brought "safely" to shore.
They included both men and women as well as children.
Last month, at least 23 migrants died trying to climb border fences into the Spanish enclave of Melilla, on Morocco's Mediterranean coast.
Non-governmental organisations say at least 37 migrants died, a toll higher than the official figure.
The victims were among around 2,000 migrants, many from Sudan, who staged a mass storming of the barrier, according to Moroccan authorities.
It was the worst recorded death toll in years of attempts by migrants to enter Ceuta and Melilla, the two main land borders between Africa and the European Union.
Migrants, often fleeing violence and food insecurity at home, have also continued to try to reach Spain by boat.
More than 40,000 migrants, mostly from Morocco, arrived in Spain in 2021 by sea, according to the Spanish Interior Ministry.
Over the first five months of 2022, arrivals increased by 12 percent compared to 2021, it said. But the normalisation of diplomatic relations between Spain and Morocco has led to a decrease in recent weeks.