By Paul Schemm
At least eight people died when a boat carrying illegal migrants sank Friday amid gales off Morocco, near the Spanish enclave of Melilla, the latest victims of the treacherous effort to seek a better life in Europe.
The boat was carrying 20 people when it sank early Friday, including two migrant traffickers, according to authorities in the Nador province quoted by the state news agency MAP.
Rescuers found eight corpses on Boukana beach near the town of Nador, said Adil Akkid, local representative for the Moroccan Association for Human Rights.
Ten people were rescued, MAP reported. Seven were detained by police, while one is hospitalized in critical condition, Akkid said. All are men from sub-Saharan Africa.
The whereabouts of the other two on the boat was unclear.
The Spanish enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta, surrounded by Moroccan territory on the southern shores of the Mediterranean, attract thousands of African migrants every year trying to enter illegally in hopes of a better life in Europe. It was unclear whether the boat that sank Friday had been headed for Melilla or for mainland Spain.
A Spanish Interior Ministry spokeswoman in Melilla said there were gales in the area Friday morning, which led to a suspension of ferry services between the enclave and mainland Spain.
She said Spanish authorities had received a warning of a migrant boat in trouble, but a subsequent search by rescue services found no trace of the vessel. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with ministry regulations.
Ciaran Giles in Madrid contributed to this report.