Maritime police intercepted a boat carrying 22 Moroccan men near Vale do Lobo beach in Loulé this morning, just over a week after a boat carrying seven Moroccan men was intercepted in Ria Formosa (click here). It is the fourth case of this kind in the Algarve in the last six months.
The seven-metre boat was spotted by a fisherman who alerted maritime authorities at around 4am.
Faro’s maritime police started searches immediately, intercepting the boat around an hour later when the group was preparing to disembark at Vale do Lobo beach.
The men, aged between 20 and 30, did not have any identification on them but claimed to be from Al Jadida. They told authorities they were aiming to reach the southern coast of Spain or Portugal and spent three days at sea before reaching the Algarve.
TVI reports the men have already undergone Covid-19 tests and will await results at Quarteira’s lifeboat station before being handed over to the custody of Portugal’s border authority SEF.
Fernando Rocha Pacheco, Faro’s maritime police commander, says that an investigation is underway to determine whether the men’s story adds up.
While the boat is “relatively small for such a large group of people”, Rocha Pacheco told TVI that completing such a journey from Morocco to the Algarve “is possible”.
He added that they only brought some food and fuel with them, as well as their mobile phones.
However, the commander did not want to link this latest case to others detected in the region in just over six months.
“I cannot correlate this incident with the others but can confirm that recently there have been four similar cases,” he told TVI.
The situation is also being closely monitored by the European Commission.
Adalbert Jahnz, European Commission spokesperson for migration, home affairs, and citizenship, told RTP: “We follow very closely the migratory situation at our external borders together with Frontex, the European border and coast guard agency, but I do not know what further comment I could have about a boat with 22 people arriving in Portugal at the moment.”
Most of the men who arrived in Portugal in the first two boats have “disappeared” and are in parts uncertain, putting Portugal “in a very bad light with European partners,” António Nunes, president of OSCOT (the Observatory on Security, Organised Crime and Terrorism) admitted earlier this year, suggesting matters would be handled differently from now on in order to avoid a repeat of the same mistakes.