By Sarah Goodman
Rabat – A total of 71 passengers, including 13 women, were rescued from two different inflatable rafts by the Royal Navy of Morocco, operating off the coast of Tangier on Tuesday, February 20.
The majority of the men and women aboard were originally from sub-Saharan countries.
A source from the military said that the dinghies were drifting in distress due to choppy waves and bad weather.
The 71 rescued are the latest in a growing number of men and women making the precarious sea voyage in hopes of crossing the Mediterranean for Europe.
Elsewhere on the Mediterranean on Tuesday, near Spain’s Alborán island, the Spanish search-and-rescue operation Salvamento Marítimo conducted separate rescued a total of 60 people aboard two rafts carrying 33 and 37 passengers respectively.
These are far from isolated incidents. Already since the start of 2018, Morocco-based National Observatory of Human Rights (ONDH) reported in January that over 1000 migrants tried to enter Spain during January 2018.
Salvamar Hamal rescata a 60 personas de 2 pateras (33+27) al norte de la isla de Alborán. Localizadas por avión Sasemar 101 y buque SKS Mosel pic.twitter.com/YsmRm73FB3
— SALVAMENTO MARÍTIMO (@salvamentogob) February 20, 2018
On Monday, the human rights non-profit organization Spanish Commission for Refugee Aid (CEAR) projected a sharp rise in the number boats crossing the sea between North Africa to get to Spain during the weeks and months ahead.
Speaking on Radio Granada, CEAR spokesman José Carlos Cabrera predicted an “avalanche of dinghies” as men and women attempted to reach Europe via the Andalusian coast in the weeks ahead.
CEAR estimated that half a million people, from Libya westward to Morocco, are on the move and that many of them are preparing to cross into Europe.
Cabrera also shared that Spain is not prepared to adequately receive migrants in the medium or long term.
Salvamento Marítimo announced in January that their collective operations had rescued 18,937 migrants crossing the Mediterranean in 2017, marking a 182 percent increase since 2016.