Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Captain of Ship in Which 43 Moroccan Jews Perished is Arrested

January 13, 1961
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The captain of the ship which foundered yesterday near Morocco, resulting in the drowning of all 43 Moroccan Jewish men, women and children passengers, was under arrest today on charges of violating Moroccan immigration laws, according to reports from Mellila, Morocco. The charges do not include responsibility for the deaths of the immigrants.

Unconfirmed reports from Mellila said that the three crew members who survived seized the only lifeboat and prevented any of the immigrants from entering it by striking them with the oars. The three were the captain, a 38-year-old Spaniard named Francisco Morilla, Chief Engineer Christobal Moya and a crew member, Miguel Sanchez.

A report from Gibraltar today said several boats returned to Alhucemas, on the coast of Morocco, with 22 bodies, mostly of women and children. Yesterday, it was reported 10 bodies were recovered.

The catastrophe evoked widespread condemnations in the French press and in political circles. Stress was placed on the lack of humanity of Moroccan authorities which the critics said had created the situation leading to the clandestine departure of the immigrants.

Le Monde, the respected Paris afternoon daily, said that the drownings were a result of the refusal of the Moroccan Government to grant passports to Jews so they could leave the country openly. The France Soir and other Paris afternoon dailies also dealt with the difficulties imposed by Moroccan authorities on efforts by Moroccan Jews suffering from grave material and other difficulties to leave the country.

(In Jerusalem, Dr. Nahum Goldmann today expressed the hope that the disaster of the Moroccan immigrant ship would induce the Moroccan Government to carry out its pre-independence pledges and its obligations to the United Nations under the Human Rights Charter and enable the departure of Moroccan Jews by more normal ways. He said the tragedy again proves that the desire on the part of Moroccan Jews to emigrate to Israel was so strong, they are ready to risk their lives for it.)

Recommended from JTA