Eight young North Africans who arrived in Monte Gordo on an old wooden fishing boat from Morocco yesterday (click here) have been offered asylum in Portugal.
Cristina Gatões, director general of SEF borders control agency, intimated last night that their situations could fall under the international protection framework that has applied to other cases of migrants rescued from the Mediterranean – and this is exactly what now has happened.
The youngsters – aged between 16 and 26 – are in the process of being transferred from SEF’s headquarters on the Algarve/ Spanish Andalusian border to Lisbon, where they will be taken into a refugee centre.
As Cristina Gatões explained yesterday, the group was informed of rights with regard to refugee status – and while requests for such are analysed the young men will be assured medical assistance and “all conditions, like lodging and means of subsistence”.
Media reports today suggest the group was in fact making for the Spanish coast, but the fishing boat ended up being pushed further west by the tides.
In all, the youngsters appear to have travelled over 500 kms, from the port city of El Jadida, 100 kms south of Casablanca.
In Porto yesterday, speaking at an ‘open lecture’ in the legal faculty of UCP (the Portuguese Catholic University), head of the armed forces Admiral António Silva Ribeiro, said the country has to be “very aware” that it could become the final destination on a new migrant route into Europe.
“We have to be very aware of this possibility because there’s not a lot of difference between going to Spain or going to the Algarve. It’s simply a question of choice”, he said – stressing the onus now is on police authorities (meaning SEF, Maritime Police and coastal control units).
The Armed Forces, explained the general, will of course “collaborate within the legal parameters of their competences” – meaning Air Force planes will maintain airspace vigilance as much as they can, while the Navy will monitor territorial waters.
SIC television news is reporting that authorities don’t actually believe the young men did the whole journey in the ramshackle fishing boat they arrived in.
They suspect that the group was brought over in another kind of vessel, and simply loaded into the 7-metre boat close to shore.
In other words, Admiral Silva Ribeiro’s warning could not be more to the point.
Says SIC, SEF is looking for the suspects that brought the migrants over, while the young men are to be further questioned in court.