Spanish rescuers search for 12 missing migrants

An ambulance enters the port of Palma de Mallorca as Spanish rescuers pulled 14 people to safety, in the sea off the Island of Cabrera, on Mallorca Island on October 4, 2021. – Spanish authorities, who had initially said that they had found 11 bodies off the Balearic Islands, corrected their assessment in the evening to say that 14 people had been found alive and that no dead had been found as yet. Fourteen people travelling in the type of makeshift boat used by the migrants “have been recovered alive. No fatalities have been located for the moment,” the Balearic prefecture said, adding that they were still searching for three people presumed missing. (Photo by JAIME REINA / AFP)

MADRID, Spain (AFP) — Rescue workers searched the seas of southern Spain on Sunday for 12 migrants who went missing after their boat overturned during an attempted crossing to the country from Algeria, Spain’s coastguard said.

A rescue operation was launched after a Norwegian sailboat reported picking up an Algerian man in the sea around seven nautical miles off the southwestern province of Almeria, a coastguard spokeswoman said.

A coastguard helicopter dispatched to the scene found another migrant floating in the water in the same area and rescued him, the spokeswoman added.

The two migrants told rescuers that they had departed for Spain with 12 others from a beach near Oran in northwestern Algeria last week but during the early hours of Sunday the boat’s motor broke down and the vessel overturned.

The tragedy comes after another boat carrying migrants sank on Thursday west of Spain’s Cape Trafalgar.

Two men were found alive on board the boat while a woman was rescued from the water.

The coastguard has recovered the bodies of nine others who were onboard but another 16 are still missing.

Meanwhile, the body of a man was found dead on a boat carrying 44 other migrants that arrived Sunday at Spain’s Gran Canaria island after a week at sea, another coastguard spokeswoman said.

The 44 migrants received medical attention and were then taken to the nearby port of Arguineguin to be processed, a coastguard spokeswoman said.

All of the migrants were males, many of them minors, from the Maghreb region of North Africa. The boat is believed to have departed from Morocco.

The coastguard also rescued 18 vessels off the Balearic Isles in the Mediterranean on Sunday, pulling 230 people — including several women — to safety, the government delegation in the archipelago said.

Spain is one of the major gateways for migrants departing from North Africa and seeking a better life in Europe.

More than 27,000 migrants arrived by sea in continental Spain and the Balearic and Canary Islands between January and the end of September, a 54 percent increase over the same period in 2020, according interior ministry figures.

The sea route to Spain is fraught with danger. The International Organization for Migration says at least 1,025 people have died in 2021, already “the deadliest year on the migratory route to Spain”.

© Agence France-Presse