Alboran sea Route

The Alboran Sea links the Rif coastline in Morocco with eastern Andalusia in Spain.

From Al Hoceima to Nador, people board motor boats or, less frequently, jet skis, in an attempt to reach destinations such as the Spanish military enclaves in Africa (Isla de Mar, Isla de Tierra, Peñón de Alhucemas, Chafarinas Islands, etc.), the city of Melilla or the Andalusian coast if they reach the end of the 180-kilometre Mediterranean crossing.

This route was most active between 2015 and 2019; it is used by both Moroccans and sub-Saharan African communities. During this period, illegal pushbacks at sea were common as people attempted to enter Melilla and the Spanish land enclaves near Morocco. Militarisation and failure to render assistance have become the reality for migrants on this route.


Year 2022






Early days

In 2007, we received the first alert from a motor boat. During this period, the route was only moderately active and was mostly taken by people from Morocco.


Increased activity

From 2015, the route became almost as popular as the Strait of Gibraltar. Sub-Saharan African migrants began to make the crossing in larger numbers but the boats used were increasingly flimsy. 


Mobilisation in the Rif

After the crackdown on the mobilisation in the Rif region, many people were forced to flee. Sub-Saharan African and Moroccan communities shared the route.


Militarisation in the Alboran Sea

The introduction of a single command to manage the sea rescue agency, Salvamento Marítimo, and the more regular presence of FRONTEX in the region had catastrophic consequences as migration control took precedence over protecting the right to life.


Shift to other routes

High levels of violence, militarisation, raids and unreliable rescue services prompted sub-Saharan African communities to explore other, more dangerous routes such as the Canary Islands route. People from North Africa continued to take the Alboran Sea route. 


Continued activity on the route 

Year after year, we continue to count the victims of this route, where search and rescue operations to look for missing boats are only sporadically mobilised. Most of the people taking this route are from the Rif region, although there are also sporadic departures by sub-Saharan Africans. Towards Melilla, some young people (mostly from Morocco) attempt to swim across the border.


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