Spain saves 157 migrants in 5 boats crossing from Africa

FILE - In this Jan. 27, 2017 file photo, sub-Saharan migrants raise their hands to grab a life jacket as they are rescued by members of the Proactive Open Arms NGO, in the Mediterranean Sea north of Zumarah, Libya. European Union President Donald Tusk said on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017, that a summit on migration on Friday, Feb. 3, 2017, is poised to take a big step in closing off the illegal migration route through the central Mediterranean where thousands have died over the past several years trying to reach the EU from Libya. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti, File)

MADRID (AP) – Spain’s maritime rescue service has saved 157 migrants from five small boats attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

The service completed five different rescue missions in waters east of the Strait of Gibraltar to reach the small craft from late Friday through until Saturday evening.

The service said that it reached the first boat carrying 27 men and six women late on Friday after it was sighted by a Spanish military plane. Another rescue boat intervened early Saturday to pull five men from a second boat.

A third craft in danger of sinking with 35 men aboard was then spotted by a Spanish navy outpost on the Alboran Island between Spain and Morocco. The Spanish military helped the boat dock on the island, where the migrants were picked up by the rescue service.

A fourth boat with 30 men and two women was located after the service received an alert from Moroccan authorities.

The fifth boat bearing 42 men and 10 women was spotted by a Spanish navy vessel, which guided the rescue service to its whereabouts.

Each year, tens of thousands of migrants and refugees set off from North Africa across the Mediterranean Sea, seeking a better life in Europe. Thousands die after setting sail in overloaded smugglers’ boats or tiny dinghies that are unfit for the open sea.