GENEVA/RABAT (Reuters) - At least 34 migrants have died in a shipwreck in the western Mediterranean, which 26 people survived, the U.N. migration agency said on Tuesday, citing the Moroccan navy and a Spanish aid agency.
Morocco’s interior ministry gave lower figures, saying 31 people had been rescued and that 11 bodies had been recovered on Monday
All migrants on board the boat came from sub-Saharan Africa, the ministry said in a statement, adding that investigations showed the organiser of the risky crossing was from Mali.
“The boat was adrift since Sunday with 60 people aboard. At least 34 have drowned, it looks like there were 26 survivors,” Joel Millman, spokesman of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), told Reuters.
The information came 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 had called her early on Monday after being contacted by the captain of the boat whom 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 cooperate closely at the 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 Oct. 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 on that incident, Morocco’s Prime Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani said the navy had not seen the migrants because they were hiding in the boat.
Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, Zakia Abdennebi and Ahmed Eljechtimi; editing by William Maclean and Gareth Jones