A Spanish coastguard boat managed to save 58 migrants, including three children, late on Tuesday from the dinghy drifting in the Alboran Sea about 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of Spain’s North African enclave of Melilla.
The rescued migrants were taken to Melilla along with the bodies of three men who died during the attempt to reach Spain, a Spanish coastguard spokeswoman said.
A migrant who had been rescued died shortly after arriving at the port of Melilla, she added.
The vessel, believed to have been carrying 78 migrants, had departed from the beach of Charrana in Morocco near Melilla.
A coastguard boat and two planes would on Wednesday search for the 16 migrants who are believed to be missing, the coastguard spokeswoman said.
Images broadcast on Spanish TV showed migrants being transported on a stretcher into ambulances or huddled on the ground wrapped in gold thermal blankets.
The coastguard vessel was dispatched to look for the dinghy after receiving an alert from an NGO.
Spain is the main entry point for migrants seeking a better life in Europe.
More than 27,000 migrants have arrived by land or sea in the country so far this year — a 50.7 per cent drop compared to 2018 when Spain for the first time surpassed Italy to become the main entry point for migrants arriving in Europe. Greece is the main destination this year.