At least four migrants drown off Morocco trying to reach Europe

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At least four Moroccan migrants trying to reach the European Union have drowned in the Atlantic Ocean, officials and relatives said Friday.

Three other migrants were rescued after their vessel sank off the resort of Skheirat, south of the capital Rabat, on Thursday.

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“We are in shock. My cousin, who was 29, was among the dead,” said a relative of one of those who drowned.

“They were all Moroccan. We had no idea he was going to try to make the voyage.”

Officials said the migrants’ vessel was believed to have had a capacity of up to 20 people and a search was still under way for any other survivors.

Fishermen in the area said the coast between Rabat and Casablanca was a regular jumping off point for migrants trying to reach mainland Spain.

Further south, along the Moroccan-controlled coast of the disputed Western Sahara, the goal is normally Spain’s Atlantic Canary Islands.

Moroccan authorities said they had intercepted a boat 30 kilometers off Laayoune Port on Thursday carrying 114 migrants trying to reach the islands.

A total of 27,136 migrants reached Spain between January and the end of September, a 53.8 percent jump on the same period of last year, according to Spanish interior ministry figures.

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