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File photo of a Moroccan naval vessel

Moroccan navy fires at vessel concealing migrants

The Moroccan navy opened fire on a boat transporting migrants to the EU wounding one of them, a military source said on Wednesday.

Published: October 12, 2018, 9:27 am

    Authorities said they responded to the boat’s “hostile manoeuvres”, pointed out that the migrants were concealed under a tarpaulin.

    The navy confirmed the shooting after “the motorboat that was carrying 58 migrants hidden under tarpaulin made a hostile move which forced the coastguard to fire at the captain,” a source told AFP.

    The latest shooting was the second of its kind in as many weeks. On 25 September, a Moroccan naval patrol opened fire on a “go-fast” speedboat ferrying migrants into Spain’. A 22-year-old student was killed and three other people were wounded in the shooting.

    One of the Moroccan illegals suffered a gunshot wound to the shoulder on Thursday in the latest shooting according to the source in Rabat who spoke on condition of anonymity. The military source told AFP that the wounded migrant – a 16-year-old according to media reports – was transferred to a hospital in Tangier.

    The overnight operation was launched to intercept the vessel off the town of Larache, on Morocco’s Atlantic coast. The migrants on the intercepted vessel were brought ashore and handed over to the security forces.

    More than 43 000 migrants have reached Spain since the start of the year, including around 38 000 by sea, according to the International Organisation for Migration, the IOM.

    Around 1 800 migrants tried to reach the European Union last weekend alone. They were picked up in the Mediterranean by the Moroccan navy and Spanish coastguard.

    Since Tuesday, the Moroccan navy had come to the aid of 15 inflatable vessels carrying 366 migrants, the official MAP news agency reported, citing a military source.

    Human traffickers have profited from increased demand for their services and have doubled their fees for migrants hoping to enter Spain illegally via the maritime route from North Africa.

    According to a document from the European Union border agency Frontex, criminal organisations already raised prices from an average €500 in 2016 to double that figure in 2017.

    Despite the increased cost of reaching the EU, almost 7 500 migrants arrived in Spain using the maritime route in the first six months of 2017 against 3 600 for the same period in 2016, figures from Spain’s Interior Ministry show.

    “They [migrants] pay between €100 and €1,500 to cross to Spain, depending on the crossing area and the type of boat used,” according to the Frontex document. This price can go up to €3,000 if people opt for a jet ski – a trip that takes around 30 minutes. “Usually the smuggler leaves the migrant on the shore and then quickly makes their way back to the African coast,” Frontex explained.

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