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Spanish rescue services searched off the country’s southeast coast Monday for 10 migrants missing at sea, after a passing vessel heard cries during the night from people in the water.

Emergency crews pulled 16 survivors and three bodies from the Mediterranean Sea after one small migrant boat sank and another took on water, Spanish authorities told state news agency EFE.

The search with helicopters and rescue boats began after a vessel in the area reported cries for help some 25 kilometres off the coast.

Survivors said there were 29 people, mostly men, on the two boats, according to EFE.

In another rescue, authorities rescued 51 men from an inflatable boat near Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands off northwest Africa.

Spain’s National Police announced that last year it arrested 202 people suspected of operating the boats taking migrants on the long and dangerous crossing from West Africa to the Spanish archipelago.

The Spanish Interior Ministry says more than 36,300 migrants reached Spain by sea last year up to Nov. 30.

That was an increase of 1.4 per cent on the same period in 2020.

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