The Portuguese Navy has confirmed that 37 migrants, believed to be from the North of Africa, have been rescued in international waters off the coast of the Algarve. They were sighted aboard a wooden boat in the early hours of this morning (November 11).
The boat was first spotted on Wednesday evening by the crew of a merchant ship. The Navy was alerted and dispatched a corvette to the area.
The men were found 37 nautical miles south of the Algarve coast, somewhere between Tavira and Vila Real de Santo António. They are said to have “requested aid” when they saw the Navy ship arriving.
Speaking to Lusa news agency, Portugal’s Maritime Commander of the South, Fernando Rocha Pacheco, said the men were being brought to shore aboard the Navy corvette and are due to be held at Portimão’s Ponto de Apoio Naval where they will undergo Covid-19 tests and “receive humanitarian aid” – in other words, food, shelter and medical assistance.
The men are reported to be “in good health”, although one has complained about “pain in his foot”.
For now, the operation is being treated as a rescue mission. Only upon their arrival will authorities determine whether they are migrants, he said.
The Algarve has seen a surge in illegal migrants arriving by boat on its shores in recent years.
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.