/ 10 December 2007

Dozens missing after boat sinks off Morocco

More than 50 people were missing after an immigrant boat sank off Morocco over the weekend, authorities said on Monday.

Officials in the town of Dakhla, on the coast off the Western Sahara, said the boat was heading for the Spanish Canary Islands from Mauritania when it sank on Saturday 28 nautical miles (more than 50km) offshore.

Alerted by a Moroccan fishing boat, the Moroccan navy managed to rescue six survivors, the officials said, adding that the search was continuing for any more.

The nationality of the immigrants was not stated.

One official said the boat had capsized in heavy weather with waves several metres high.

The nearest point in the European Union is the Canary Islands, a favourite destination for illegal immigrants from Africa and elsewhere seeking a better life.

About 11 500 people have landed on the islands so far this year, far fewer than the 31 000 recorded in 2006, thanks to increased patrols by European naval vessels.

Most of the Africans are eventually repatriated to their countries of origin. — AFP