Morocco on Wednesday prevented some 50 migrants from reaching the Spanish territory of Ceuta by sea, officials said, the latest in a wave of desperate bids by Africans to reach Europe.

"Some 50 illegal migrants tried to reach the occupied territory of Septa this morning (Wednesday) by swimming or in makeshift boats," the governor of Tangiers said in a statement, using the Moroccan name for Spain's tiny north African enclave.

"The security forces deployed along the kingdom's north coast manage to thwart the attempt, and 48 would-be illegal migrants were arrested," it added, without saying what fate awaited them.

The interior ministry said last Thursday that police drove back 300 African migrants trying to force their way over the border fence at Ceuta, which along with Melilla, another Spanish enclave to the east, shares Europe's only land frontier with Africa.

Seven members of the security forces were injured in last week's attempt, which a Spanish government official in Ceuta said "was one of the biggest groups in recent years" to try to storm the border.

Thousands of migrants fleeing poverty and unrest in Africa try to enter Europe each year, whether to Ceuta and Melilla by land and sea, or to Spain or Italy often in flimsy, overcrowded vessels.

A shipwreck off the Italian island of Lampedusa on October 3 is thought to have left more than 350 migrants dead.

Morocco is under intense pressure from its European partners to stem the tide of African migrants crossing the country on their attempted journey north. But it has also come under fire from the international media and rights groups for its heavy-handed approach to the problem.

 

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