According to the Walking Across Borders aid agency, the dead likely included 30 women, eight children and four men.
Some 42 migrants, including 30 women and eight children, are believed to have died after their boat capsized in rough seas shortly after leaving the coastal town of Dakhla in Western Sahara, a Spanish migrant rights activist said.
Helena Maleno Garzon, founder of the Caminando Fronteras (Walking Borders) charity, said the dead included 30 women, eight children and four men. Only 10 of the occupants survived.
“We must not get used to such tragedies,” another migrant aid organization, the Spanish Commission for Refugees (CEAR), posted on Twitter.
Moroccan officials in Dakhla could not be reached immediately for official confirmation. However, local media reported that 12 bodies washed up on the shore on Thursday while 10 people were rescued by fishermen off the coast of Dakhla.
Morocco claims the disputed territory of Western Sahara, annexed in 1975, and its navy operates there. The Polisario Front claims the independence of the territory.
Further north along the coast of Western Sahara, the official MAP news agency reported on Thursday that the Moroccan navy had rescued 30 migrants just south of Laâyoune. Navy ships were still searching for 59 more, including 14 women and four children, in a nearby body of water hundreds of miles from Dakhla.
In addition, the Spanish maritime rescue service announced on Friday that it had rescued 63 people near the Canary Islands.
Migrant deaths are common in an area of the Atlantic that separates the west coast of Africa and Spain’s Canary Islands. But this most recent boating accident included an unusually high number of women and children who apparently perished.
Shipwrecks on the West African route to the Canaries are often difficult to verify and most of the bodies of the victims are never found.
The UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) has reported that at least 250 migrants have died en route to the Canary Islands in the first six months of 2021, while Walking Borders reported significantly more casualties on the same route for the same period, counting nearly 2,000.
In the first half of 2021, arrivals increased 156% compared to the same period last year, according to IOM.
The number of undocumented migrants and refugees arriving on the Spanish Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean was more than eight times higher last year than in 2019, the effect of COVID-19 on tourism and others industries in North and Sub-Saharan Africa pushing many more to embark on the dangerous journey.