The Latest: 7 bodies of migrants found near Spain, off coast

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The Latest on Europe's migrants crisis (all times local):

4:50 p.m.

Spain's maritime rescue service says the bodies of seven African migrants have been found dead along the Strait of Gibraltar since Friday.

The latest casualty was a woman who was found dead late Saturday aboard a drifting boat along the coast of Spain's North African enclave of Ceuta. Seven survivors were handed over to Spanish authorities.

The rescue service says the coast is currently being patrolled for survivors on another drifting boat that reportedly departed from neighboring Morocco. Six African migrants who drowned are thought to have been on the boat, which may have shipwrecked.

Local police told The Associated Press that two bodies were found on a beach near the southern Spanish city of Algeciras on Saturday morning. Spain's maritime rescue service says four others were found floating in the water.


3: 15 p.m.

Tens of thousands of people seeking better lives are expected to trek across deserts and board unseaworthy boats in war-torn Libya this year in a desperate effort to reach European shores by way of Italy.

More than 181,000 people, most so-called "economic migrants" with little chance of being allowed to stay in Europe, attempted to cross the central Mediterranean last year from Libya, Africa's nearest stretch of coast to Italy. About 4,500 died or disappeared.

Hundreds already have taken to the sea this month, braving the winter weather. In the latest reminder of the journey's perils, more than 100 people were missing off Libya's coast over the weekend after a migrant boat sunk.

Some European leaders are warning of a fresh migration crisis when sea waters warm again and more people choose to put their lives in the hands of smugglers.


3:10 p.m.

The 28-nation EU already has a controversial deal to stem the flow of migrants from Turkey, which has agreed to try to stop the number of migrants leaving the country and to take back thousands more in exchange for billions of euros to help Syrian refugees in Turkey, visa-free travel for its citizens and fast-track EU membership talks.

Now, the EU wants to adapt this outsourcing pact to the African nations whose migrants are trying to reach Europe, despite criticism that the agreement sends asylum-seekers back to countries that could be unsafe for them.

The bottom line is that the Turkey deal works. The number of people arriving in the Greek islands, for instance, plunged over the last year despite political wrangling over whether Turkey's government was respecting the EU's conditions.

And EU nations have even fewer scruples about turning away migrants who take the central Mediterranean route to Italy since they mostly are job seekers who would be ineligible for asylum.


3 p.m.

Niger, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Mauritania, Mali and Chad are all on the European UnionU's radar to work with on the migrant issue, and dealing with them is proving expensive.

But the bloc's arrangement with Turkey has shown that the best way of stemming migrant flows is to stop people taking to the sea.

Libya and Egypt are the main migrant departure points to Europe, and pacts with them would probably have the biggest immediate impact.

Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat wants to build on a deal Italy is trying to reach with Libya by adding EU funds and other support. He also thinks the EU's anti-smuggler naval mission, Operation Sophia, should be extended into Libyan territorial waters to stop people in unsafe boats from reaching open waters.

But the EU has been unable to secure United Nations backing for such a move, and Libya has no central authority with the reach or stability to negotiate a long-term agreement with the Europeans.


12:45 p.m.

Pope Francis is demanding that "every possible measure" be taken to protect young refugees as he marks the church's World Day of Migrants a day after the latest Mediterranean migrant shipwreck.

Italy's coast guard says only four people survived the sinking of a migrant ship off Libya's coast on Saturday. An estimated 100 people were aboard and only eight bodies have been recovered.

Search and recovery efforts continued Sunday.

In his Sunday noon blessing, Francis recalled that the theme of this year's migrant day message concerned the vulnerability of young migrants — "our young brothers" whom often flee home alone and face "so many dangers."

He said: "We must adopt every possible measure to guarantee young migrants protection and defense, as well as integration."