Morocco rescues over 360 migrants at sea: Military source

A Spanish Maritime Rescue Services ship carries ashore some 36 rescued migrants in Algeciras, Cadiz, southern Spain, Dec 27, 2018.
A Spanish Maritime Rescue Services ship carries ashore some 36 rescued migrants in Algeciras, Cadiz, southern Spain, Dec 27, 2018.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

RABAT (AFP) - Morocco's navy on Thursday (Dec 27) rescued 367 mostly sub-Saharan migrants in the Mediterranean sea after they attempted to reach Spain, a military source told AFP.

The rescued migrants included women and children who were "in difficulty on board several makeshift vessels", the source said.

"They were all brought back safely by navy units to the nearest ports."

Morocco stopped 68,000 attempted illegal migrants and dismantled 122 "active criminal networks" in the first nine months of 2018, according to a recent official count.

Alongside migrants arriving from sub-Saharan Africa, an increasing number of young Moroccan citizens have attempted to leave the country on board inflatable dinghies in recent months.

At least 769 migrants have died attempting to cross the western Mediterranean since the start of the year, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), after 224 died on this route in 2017.

Spain has become the main point of entry into Europe for illegal migrants this year, ahead of Greece and Italy.

The IOM says that more than 55,000 migrants have arrived in Spain by sea this year.