Two migrants drowned after their boat capsized and more than 200 others have been detained as they prepared to leave Morocco by sea, state news agency MAP reported Sunday.
The bodies of the two migrants washed up “after a boat capsized”, MAP reported, without giving further details.
Separately, Moroccan authorities arrested 236 migrants during operations on Friday and Saturday in the southern province of Tarfaya and the city of Laayoune — the main city in the disputed territory of Western Sahara.
The migrants were reportedly seeking to cross to Spain’s Canary Islands.
Tarfaya is located 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the Canary Islands and has been a key transit point for migrants hoping to reach Europe.
Security forces have “recently intensified operations to control illegal immigration attempts in the region”, MAP said.
Earlier this month, Spain announced a “new stage” in ties with Morocco as it shifted from its previous stance on the Western Sahara — where the Polisario Front seeks independence — to back Rabat’s plan for autonomy for the territory.
The U-turn from the territory’s former colonial power, which until then had tried to appear neutral on the issue, sparked condemnation from the Polisario and its backer Algeria.
Ties between Spain and Morocco hit a low after Madrid in April last year allowed Western Sahara independence leader Brahim Ghali into a Spanish hospital when he was very sick with Covid.
The following month, Spain was caught off-guard when more than 10,000 people swam or used small inflatable boats to enter its tiny North African enclave of Ceuta as Moroccan border forces looked the other way.
According to the Spanish interior ministry, more than 40,000 migrants arrived in the country by sea in 2021.