At least 34 migrants died in a shipwreck in the western Mediterranean, which 26 people survived, the UN migration agency said, citing the Moroccan navy and a Spanish aid agency.
Morocco’s interior ministry gave lower figures, saying 31 people were rescued and 11 bodies were recovered.
All on board the boat came from sub-Saharan Africa, the ministry said in a statement, adding investigations showed the organiser of the risky crossing was from Mali.
“The boat was adrift since Sunday with 60 people aboard. At least 34 drowned, it looks like there were 26 survivors,” Joel Millman, spokesman for the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), told Reuters. The information was from the Moroccan navy and a Spanish non-governmental organisation, Caminando Fronteras (Walking Borders), he added.
Helena Manelo, founder of Caminando Fronteras, said the Spanish coast guard called her on Monday after being contacted by the ship’s captain who they were unable to understand.
“They were asking for help because their inflatable boat was damaged,” the Morocco-based Spanish activist told Reuters.
Morocco and Spain co-operate at security level to crack down on trafficking networks but they are not doing enough to save lives at sea, Manelo said.
In an incident on October 26, the Moroccan navy fired at a speedboat carrying Moroccan migrants after it refused to stop, killing a young woman and injuring three migrants.
Commenting, Morocco Prime Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani said the navy did not see the migrants because they were hiding in the boat.