Authorities in Morocco have uncovered six bodies that washed ashore after a boat carrying 20 undocumented migrants sank Friday morning off the coast of the Spanish enclave of Melilla, which is situated on the northern Moroccan coast.
The corpses were discovered at Boukana beach near the town of Nador, local authorities told Moroccan state news agency MAP. Another 10 people were rescued after the boat capsized, and were taken to a local hospital.
Nine people were later released while one remains in critical condition. There was no mention of the remaining four people.
The boat was carrying 20 people in total, according to MAP, including two smugglers. The identities and nationalities of the migrants were not revealed, but the Spanish enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta in North Africa are often used as gateways for African migration into Europe.
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Last May, a wave of some 750 sub-Saharan migrants attempted to rush the nearly 20-foot tall barbed wire fence separating Morocco from Melilla. Roughly 140 or so managed to scramble over and onto Spanish soil, while hundreds of others were arrested and held back by police.
Spain spent 30 million euros building up the barriers around Melilla and Ceuta in 2004, which now serve as the sole land borders between the enclaves and Africa.
But jumping the fence is not the only way out of Africa. On February 6, Spanish military police in Ceuta fired rubber bullets at migrants swimming near the enclave's shore — another way into European territory. At least 15 people drowned in Moroccan waters on that occasion.
The incident sparked fierce condemnation by human rights groups and EU officials, and forced Spain's interior ministry to ban border guards from resorting to rubber bullets.
Spanish rescue teams saved some 3,500 migrants in 2014, marking a 55 percent increase from the previous year.
International law prohibits deportations "on the spot," and most immigrants are taken to increasingly over-saturated welcome centers if they make it across. There, they are sheltered, identified, and have their cases reviewed — including possible appeals for asylum.
Spain's immigration problem at its enclaves is part of a broader issue on soaring immigration to Europe. Last year, an unprecedented number of migrants attempted to cross into the EU countries, often on dangerous and unseaworthy boats across the Mediterranean, many of which sink. Since 2000, more than 27,000 migrants and refugees have died trying to cross into Europe.