The 37 migrants who were rescued yesterday by the Portuguese Navy from a wooden boat in international waters off the coast of the Algarve have “refused to say where they departed from and where they were going”.
“We do not have information about the origin and destination of these people, who are allegedly mostly Moroccan, according to what they said,” Portugal’s Maritime Commander of the South, Fernando Rocha Pacheco, told reporters at Portimão’s Ponto de Apoio Naval where the migrants arrived at 5pm yesterday and where they are being held.
He added that four of the migrants are aged between 15 and 18 and that the other are “young adults.”
The maritime commander also explained that the operation was not a “migrant interception mission” but instead a “search and rescue”. In fact, the migrants requested aid from the Portuguese Navy ship as soon as they saw that it had arrived at their location after being tipped off by a merchant ship.
Added Rocha Pacheco, the 37 migrants were “stopped” in international waters aboard a small wooden boat (about seven metres-long).
“According to what some of them told Portuguese authorities, they had been at sea for some days, but refused to reveal their origin and destination,” he said.
Despite their perilous journey, all of the migrants were in good health and some of them had identification on them. The Portuguese Navy brought them ashore to be transferred to the custody of Portugal’s border agency (SEF).
Meanwhile, Lusa news agency reports that 134 migrants have arrived on the Algarve’s shores in the last two years, most of them from the north of Africa.
Last month, Diário de Notícias reported that SEF border authority has ‘lost track’ of 44 of the 97 Moroccan migrants that arrived in the Algarve by boat between December 2019 and September 2020. Meanwhile, 33 are either due to be deported, seeking a job or awaiting a decision about their request for asylum.