Spanish rescuers find three bodies from migrant boat capsize

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Spanish maritime rescue services Friday recovered the bodies of three of 22 migrants missing and feared drowned after their boat capsized off the south of the country, they said.

"The body of a child of four or five was recovered and that of an adult," and some hours later "the body of a baby girl," a spokeswoman for the rescue services said.

She said the search is continuing for the 19 others.

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, a statement from the rescue services said earlier.

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, in particular its Canary Islands in the Atlantic, 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.

A record 31,678 migrants reached the Canary Islands in 2006 but this had dropped to just 196 last year.

Overall, the numbers arriving on Spanish soil had roughly halved to 3,632 in 2010 against 7,285 the year before.

© 2011 AFP

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