Rescue teams on Sunday scoured the sea off the southern coast of Almeria in a search for 22 illegal immigrants feared dead after their small rubber boat capsized in bad weather, officials said.
The boat, which had been carrying more than 60 people, capsized due to bad weather on Saturday morning, 14 nautical miles (22 kilometers) from the shore, the Interior Ministry in the provincial capital of Almeria said.
Police rescued 44 immigrants _ 36 men and eight women _ after they were alerted by several mobile telephone calls from one of the people on board, the ministry said. Their nationalities were not immediately released. Rescue teams in helicopters and boats searched for the immigrants throughout Saturday, and two boats were dispatched again to the area Sunday.
Every year, thousands of people, mostly Moroccans and sub-Saharan Africans, try to emigrate illegally to Europe by crossing the sea to Spain on rickety boats. Many drown in the attempt. Most of those who do make it across are detained and deported. Many undertake the voyage to southern Spain across the treacherous Strait of Gibraltar. Others head to Spain's Canary Islands off Africa's west coast, the AP reports.