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Bodies of 18 migrants found off Mauritania

Written by: Staff
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MADRID, Mar 15 (Reuters) A Spanish hospital ship recovered the bodies of 18 migrants floating in the sea off Mauritania today, Spanish authorities said.

Mauritania has become the latest staging post for migrants fleeing poverty in Africa. Scores of mostly young men set out in fishing boats every night hoping to reach Spain's Canary Islands and many die in the attempt.

The Spanish hospital ship Esperanza del Mar (Hope of the Sea) went to recover the bodies after the crew of a fishing boat spotted them, a Spanish government spokesman in the Canary Islands said.

The hospital ship continues to search the area, in Mauritanian waters about 400 nautical miles (740 kms) south of the Canary Islands, in case of more bodies, he said.

Spain is to try to halt a flood of migrants landing in the Canary Islands by beefing up sea patrols and supporting Mauritania's armed forces, the government said on Wednesday after a crisis meeting prompted by a sharp rise in arrivals.

In Brussels, the European Commission said it would join Spain in a mission to Mauritania to discuss how to stem the exodus.

REUTERS SHR RN2126

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