5th boatload of North African men ‘intercepted’ off Olhão

A fifth boatload of North African men disembarking illegally in the Algarve has been ‘intercepted’ by police.

The 21 men arrived on the beach of Farol, Culatra island, shortly before 8pm on Tuesday night.

Locals raised the alert and authorities moved in. The men are now being ‘held’, pending a decision on what to do with them – but their arrival – the fifth boatload in the space of a few months – shows methods have to change unless the Algarve means to remain an open door to illegal immigration.

This is the opinion of Acácio Pereira, president of the syndicate of SEF borders agency inspectors.

He told Lusa this morning that the government has to start ‘dealing with this problem up-front’.

As things stand, Portugal has “systematically failed” to detect these boats at sea, and it “doesn’t have the capacity to accommodate these people in installation centres, as happens in other countries”.

Indeed, the installation centres existing at airports are already filled with these kinds of cases. The most recent arrivals prior to Tuesday’s 21 are all still in Faro airport awaiting repatriation. Three have twice managed to escape, albeit briefly.

Says António Pina, president of AMAL – the Algarve’s association of municipalities – the message that illegal migrants won’t be tolerated will only ‘get through’ when they start being ‘sent back’.

Since December last year, a total of 69 young men, supposedly from North Africa, have arrived in the Algarve.

Portugal’s Secret Service finds the situation “particularly worrying” (click here) but the ‘official’ line from Eduardo Cabrita, Minister for Interior Administration, is that it is “premature” to consider Portugal has become a new destination for illegal immigration.

After speaking with Acácio Pereira, TSF radio tried to get in touch with Mr Cabrita – or at least the ministry – for a quote, but “still hasn’t received a response”.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com