By: CECÍLIA PIRES
AUTHORITIES IN the Algarve have detained on Monday, December 17, a group of 23 illegal immigrants who turned up at Culatra Island, between Olhão and Faro, but who thought they were in Spain.
The group was apparently travelling from Morocco to Spain but the failure of the engine on their boat led them to the Portuguese coast – without them knowing.
“We wanted to go to Spain,” said one of the immigrants, in Spanish, to the police when he was detained.
The police had been called by local residents at around 1.45pm after they found an eight-metre wooden boat full of people beached not far from their houses on Culatra Island.
Aged between 15 and 30, the group consisted of 19 men and five women. All had minor injuries and burns due to long exposure to the sun, gasoline and salt water, and were showing signs of hypothermia and dehydration.
The group was rescued by the Portuguese Navy, assisted by a helicopter, while officials from the SEF, the national agency for foreigners and border control, the Civil Protection, the Fiscal Brigades, who also control the borders, the INEM, who are the medical emergency teams, and two Bombeiros teams were waiting for them in the Olhão maritime port.
Faro Civil Governor Isilda Gomes was also called and later said the case was an isolated incident. “These situations are being severely controlled by a joint force under the European Frontex programme,” she told The Resident, adding that there are no fears of repetitions as “even they admitted they were lost and didn’t want to come to Portugal, they wanted to go to Spain”.
Two of the immigrants were taken to Faro hospital and treated for hypothermia and bruising, while the remaining members were taken to a SEF’s shelter at Faro Airport.
They were then questioned by the police and SEF teams until they were presented to a judge from Faro court house, who ordered that the entire group be expelled from Portugal, including the two under aged girls, within a maximum of 60 days.
The group has now been transferred to the SEF facilities in Porto, due to lack of space at Faro Airport.
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