22 migrants missing after boat capsizes: Spanish rescuers

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Spanish maritime rescue services were searching Friday for 22 would-be immigrants missing and feared drowned after their boat capsized off the south of the country, they said in a statement.

A total of 29 people were rescued from the small boat that capsized late Thursday in the Mediterranean 23 nautical miles (40 kilometres) southeast of Cape Sacratif, near the town of Motril.

But the survivors said 22 more people, including two children, were also on board, the statement said.

The rescue services immediately dispatched a plane, a helicopter and a patrol boat to search for them.

Those rescued were suffering from hypothermia and were being treated by medics in Motril.

The rescue services were first alerted by a social worker in Morocco who had seen the vessel leave the north African country early on Thursday, the statement said.

Spain has been a magnet in recent years for African migrants aspiring to reach Europe. Authorities fear many of those who attempt the crossing by sea in small boats die of thirst, hunger or exposure.

Mass arrivals have become rarer in recent years, however, due to the economic downturn in Spain and repatriation agreements Madrid signed with the African countries that were a major source of migrants.

The country has also worked with other European nations to boost maritime surveillance.

© 2011 AFP

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