Rabat – The Moroccan Royal Navy rescued 157 undocumented migrants in the Mediterranean and Atlantic between May 2 and May 4.
The groups of irregular migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, included 30 women and a few minors, a military source told Maghreb Arab Press (MAP).
The Coast Guard discovered the migrants in makeshift inflatable boats and pulled them aboard a military ship to provide first aid before bringing them to safety in nearby Moroccan ports, said the source.
Due to its proximity to Europe, Morocco has faced considerable pressure to control unauthorized migratory efforts into European countries, particularly Spain.
Thousands of migrants risk their lives each year in an attempt to travel north. Despite the dangerous journey, the Moroccan Navy intercepted nearly 60,000 migratory attempts in 2019. In less fortunate circumstances, a number of bodies have been found washed ashore along Morocco’s coastlines.
Crossing the Mediterranean is the shortest and safest route, making it the preferable route for those seeking European land. The Strait of Gibraltar–the Mediterranean’s thinnest point –separates Morocco and Spain by only 10 miles. In 2019, approximately 75% of clandestine sea arrivals to Spain came through this route.
Traversing the Atlantic is less preferred and considerably more dangerous. However, more migrants opt for this precarious route due to increased border control along the Mediterranean borders.
Last year, the Spanish government provided Morocco with over $35 million to support migration control efforts. Morocco has responded by strengthening its borders, dismantling underground migration networks, and upping the number of police raids aimed at deporting undocumented sub-Saharan migrants.
Spain has attributed a significant decrease in unauthorized migration into the country to cooperation with Morocco.
Regardless of recent crackdowns–and even during pandemic lockdowns–many migrants continue to express determination to leave poverty and persecution behind in hopes of a better future.