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Morocco Navy finds bodies of 11 refugees

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A woman stands with her child as refugees arrive on a boat to the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey on December 7, 2015. (AFP photo)

Moroccan naval forces have retrieved the bodies of at least 11 African refugees after their boat capsized off the coast of Morocco in the Atlantic Ocean, a local media report says.

Local authorities told official Maghreb Arabe Presse (MAP), a Moroccan official news agency, on Tuesday that the refugees drowned after their vessel capsized around 140 kilometers south of Boujdour in Western Sahara.

The vessel carrying refugees overturned after encountering bad weather in the troubled waters, the sources added.

The authorities also noted that the boat accident happened as refugees were attempting to reach Spain's Canary Islands, which used to be a key route for Africans trying to reach Europe.

Also on Monday, the Spanish coastguard rescued nearly 50 Africans aboard a ship heading for the islands.

According to Spanish Interior Ministry figures, refugees and asylum seekers’ arrivals in the archipelago peaked at over 30,000 in 2006. However, their numbers fell back to just 296 after Spain increased patrolling in 2014. 

European countries reportedly remain divided over how to deal with refugees, most of whom are fleeing conflict-hit zones in the Middle East and Africa. 

The influx of asylum seekers into Europe has sparked pro- and anti-refugee sentiments across the continent, especially in Germany that hosts the bulk of refugees for now.

In this video grab released by the Italian Coast Guards (Guardia Costiera) on December 6, 2015, refugees sit in a boat during a rescue operation, off the coast of Sicily. (AFP)

Germany, Europe’s top destination for refugees, is expecting to receive between 800,000 and one million asylum seekers this year.

Recent reports say hundreds of refugees are currently stuck at the main crossing point into Macedonia from Greece. 

According to the recent figures released by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), over 878,490 refugees have reached Europe’s shores so far this year while more than 3,560 people have either died or gone missing in their perilous journey to the continent.

Six Afghan children drown off Turkey

Also on Tuesday, the Turkish coastguard recovered the bodies of at least six Afghan children, including a baby, after an inflatable dinghy carrying refugees sank in Turkish waters, Turkey’s official Anatolia news agency reported.

The boat overturned in high waves and strong winds near the town of Cesme in the western Izmir province as it was heading for the Greek island of Chios.

The rescuers were still looking for two other refugees reported missing.

In a separate incident, the body of a five-year-old refugee girl washed up on a beach in Cesme on Monday. 

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