Morocco’s navy intercepts 257 Europe-bound migrants at sea

Royal Moroccan Navy officers intercept migrants in the water at the border between Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in 2021. Morocco has intercepted 257 migrants at sea over four days, state media said. (AFP)
Royal Moroccan Navy officers intercept migrants in the water at the border between Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in 2021. Morocco has intercepted 257 migrants at sea over four days, state media said. (AFP)

Morocco’s state media says the country’s navy forces have intercepted 257 migrants over the past four days.

“Navy coast guards on maritime patrol in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, rescued … 257 people attempting irregular migration,” military officials told the official MAP news agency on Tuesday, adding that the would-be migrants used makeshift boats, kayaks and even swimming in their bid to reach European shores.

Most of the men, women and children intercepted by Morocco’s navy in recent days came from African countries, though the group also included those from Afghanistan and Yemen, the report indicates.

The announcement comes just two weeks after a deadly stampede, caused when thousands of migrants tried to rush the border fence separating Morocco from the Spanish-controlled enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla.

Official sources says 23 migrants died in that incident, although non-governmental organizations put the death toll much higher, at 37 people.

Spain’s Interior Ministry says over 40,000 migrants, mostly from Morocco, arrived in Spain by sea in 2021.

But that number seems to be on the rise, with arrivals spiking by 12 percent over the first five months in 2022, as food and fuel prices across the continent continue to rise.