Spain calls off search for missing immigrants

Rescuers on Monday called off the search for 22 missing illegal immigrants whose small rubber boat capsized in stormy weather off the southern Spanish coast over the weekend. Rescue teams in boats and helicopters had not find any survivors or bodies since the boat capsized Saturday off the coast of Almeria and called off their search on Monday, said Fernando Romera, spokesman for the maritime rescue service. He said it was unlikely anyone could survive that long in the cold water.

"It's most likely that, unfortunatedly, all the bodies are at the bottom of the sea, and that's why there is virtually no hope of finding them," Romera said.

Romera added they have alerted boats in the area as well as the Moroccan and Algerian authorities about the possibility that the bodies may wash ahore on their coast.

The boat, which had been carrying more than 60 people from North Africa, capsized due to bad weather on Saturday morning, 16 miles (26 kilometers) from the shore off the sourthern coast of Almeria, authorities 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. A dead body was also found on the boat.

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 northwest coast, reports the AP. I.L.

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