AN athlete has died attempting to cross the Strait of Gibraltar from Morocco in a refugee boat.
Helal Ali Mohammed Al-Hajj’s lifeless body was found in Melilla after he tried to enter Spain.
The 24-year-old was with a second man who was able to swim to safety, after the pair were dropped off in the water by the coast.
The Spanish Commission for Helping Refugees tweeted: “Helal (24, Yemen) died last week trying to reach Melilla by sea, eyewitnesses inform us.”
The young Yemeni competed in the Asian Games in Jakarta in 2018 and achieved a bronze medal in the 2017 Islamic Solidarity Games.
He was a mixed martial artist who specialsed in ‘wushu.’
The civil war in Yemen forced him to move away to Algeria – but he had his sights set on moving to Europe for a better life.
The UN for Refugees (Acnur) say the sportsman tried to flee his country because of the war but died in his attempt to reach the Spanish city.
The surviving friend said: “His dream was to be like Conor Anthony McGregor. He had his sights set on Spain to work and compete as an athlete.”