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Dozens of refugees drown in shipwreck off Morocco coast

A Spanish aid agency says authorities waited about 24 hours before responding to the incident.

asylum seekers

At least 34 refugees have drowned in a shipwreck along the western Mediterranean, the UN migration agency said, citing the Moroccan navy and a Spanish aid agency.

Helena Maleno, a Morocco-based activist with Spanish NGO Caminando Fronteras, said on Tuesday that 34 of a total of 60 migrants died after authorities failed to respond to earlier reports of the incident.  

"They had been asking for help for the past 24 hours but we let them die slowly," she posted on Twitter.

Joe Millman, a spokesperson of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), told Reuters news agency that "the boat was adrift since Sunday with 60 people on board. At least 34 people have drowned; it looks like there were 26 survivors."

A Moroccan official who wished to remain anonymous told Reuters that 11 bodies had been recovered so far, adding that none of the deceased were Moroccan nationals.

For the first time since the refugee crisis began in 2015, the Morocco to Spain route has become the most popular path for asylum seekers attempting to reach Europe's shores.

Up until September 10 this year, a total of 34,994 people made the perilous journey, dwarfing numbers for the Libya-Italy and Turkey-Greece routes with 20,210 and 20,827 respectively. This figure is also already treble that of 2017.

According to some reports, Moroccan authorities believe 50,000 migrants and refugees are currently based in Tangier and its surrounding area.

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