Spanish officials say at least 19 people have drowned off the Canary Islands after a boat carrying illegal migrants coming from North Africa capsized.

Police said six passengers were rescued Monday near Lanzarote Island, and that a search was taking place for a few others who were still missing.

The Spanish-controlled islands off the coast of Morocco have been a magnet for Africans hoping to make it to Europe in recent years.

Thousands reach their destination, but authorities say many others die during journeys in overcrowded, rickety boats. 

Many migrants are also caught by authorities and sent back to their countries of origin.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP