Two children traveling in a migrant boat died on Sunday as they were crossing the Mediterranean in an attempt to reach the Spanish coast, according to survivors’ accounts.
Another 69 people who were aboard the vessel were rescued by a Moroccan fishing boat.
769 people have died so far in 2018 as they attempted the Mediterranean crossing to Spain
Survivors have provided varying accounts of the children’s deaths. Some said they were forced to throw the bodies overboard after the youngsters died en route. Others said that they died at the Moroccan beach of Tcharrana, where their journey began, when two gasoline containers caught fire. Spanish rescue and law enforcement agencies have been unable to locate the bodies.
The survivors, 64 men and five women from sub-Saharan Africa, were taken to the port of Almería, in southern Spain, and are reported to be in good health according to the Red Cross.
On Thursday of last week, 13 people died and 12 more remain missing after their boat capsized in the Mediterranean. Survivors said that 11 of the 13 people who died had drunk seawater. Spanish rescue services saved 55 more migrants this past weekend.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 769 people have died so far in 2018 as they attempted the Mediterranean crossing to Spain. Another 55,000 migrants have managed to make the journey along the Western Mediterranean route, which has seen a spike in traffic after Italy and Malta stopped taking in rescue ships.
The Open Arms, a humanitarian ship run by a Catalan non-profit group, is headed for the southern Spanish city of Algeciras after rescuing 310 migrants near the coast of Libya.
The Open Arms received global attention in July when it took a group of migrants to Barcelona after they were rejected by Italy and Malta.
Before that, another humanitarian ship named Aquarius had made world headlines after being denied permission to dock by Italy and Malta; its 630 migrants were finally taken in by Spain in a case that sparked a renewed debate about immigration in Europe.
The Spanish government was criticized last month for refusing to take in 12 migrants rescued by a fishing boat named Nuestra Madre Loreto off the coast of Libya. They were eventually accepted by Malta.
English version by Susana Urra.