/ 2 August 2006

Bodies of 28 migrants wash up on Saharan coast

The bodies of 28 illegal sub-Saharan migrants who had tried to reach the Canary Islands washed up on a beach in Western Sahara on Tuesday, Moroccan state news agency MAP reported.

The migrants, who had set off from the Moroccan coast in two boats, were discovered in Blibilatte, 40km north of the territory’s chief city Laayoune, MAP quoted local officials as saying.

Police searching the area found 49 migrants who were held for questioning. A search was under way for other passengers who were on board the boats, MAP said.

Under pressure from European governments, Morocco has tightened security along its northern coastline, forcing thousands of illegal migrants trying to escape poverty to attempt longer, more risky routes further to the south or east.

More than 10 000 have arrived in the Canaries this year, more than the number for all of 2005, after braving the seas separating the Spanish-owned islands from Africa.

Moroccan and Spanish coastal patrols regularly round up scores of migrants, who are often dehydrated and exhausted after days at sea. – Reuters