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Morocco: Children among 63 people rescued from sinking ship by navy

Latest rescue comes amid soaring number of deaths and people missing at sea trying to reach Europe
An empty inflatable boat following the rescue of about 90 people by the Spanish NGO Maydayterraneo in the Mediterranean off the Libyan coast on 9 February 2020 (AFP)

Sixty-three people were rescued by the Moroccan navy after their vessel began to sink close to the Moroccan coast on Tuesday.

The rescued included 15 women and three children, AFP reported.

All of them survived and were safe, Alarm Phone, an emergency hotline for migrants at sea, confirmed on Twitter: "63 people in severe distress close to the Moroccan coast were found by the Moroccan navy and safely brought to shore."

The unfolding disaster was flagged by Helena Maleno Garzon, a member of the rights group Caminando Fronteras.

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Garzon had warned that dozens of people were sinking in an inflatable boat off Tarfaya, a small town on Morocco's southern coast, and would "die if they are not rescued soon".

Canary Islands

According to Caminando Fronteras, many people trying to reach Europe were now heading to the Canary Islands, as shorter routes in the Mediterranean were heavily monitored. 

The latest incident came a few days after six people drowned and 30 went missing when a boat carrying them capsized off the coast of Tunisia. The boat had been travelling from Libya to Europe, Reuters reported. 

No rescue from above: Europe's surveillance in the Mediterranean leaves migrants to their fate
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The Moroccan authorities did not immediately confirm the operation.

For many activists, the central Mediterranean is becoming a “black box” that is becoming harder and harder to navigate, Middle East Eye reported on Sunday. The stretch of water appears to be vacated by state actors, but it is heavily scrutinised by them from the air, with European aircraft supporting the coastguard.

In recent months, deaths in the central Mediterranean have soared, with 2,041 people recorded dead and missing in 2021 by the International Organisation for Migration, up from 1,448 in 2020.

In June, Tunisia's defence ministry said that its navy had rescued 178 people who were trying to cross the Mediterranean from Libya to reach Europe.

In July, pregnant women and scores of minors were among 196 people rescued off the coast of Libya by a vessel operated by French NGO SOS Mediterranee. 

A few days later, more than 400 people were rescued when they tried to cross the Mediterranean after their boat ran into trouble in Tunisian waters.

The rescued were from Egypt; Tunisia; Syria; Ivory Coast; Bangladesh; Nigeria; Mali; and Ethiopia.

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