Migrants face 'piracy' charge in Spain after rescue ship mutiny

AFP - [email protected]
Migrants face 'piracy' charge in Spain after rescue ship mutiny
Nearly 15,000 African migrants on small boats arrived in the Canary Islands in the first nine months of 2023. (Photo by DESIREE MARTIN / AFP)

Nine migrants were arrested in the Canary Islands on "piracy" charges for forcing the ship that rescued them to change course for Spain instead of Morocco, police and rescuers said Tuesday.


They were among a group of 78 migrants who tried to cross from the African coast to the Canary Islands in two boats that got into trouble and were rescued on Monday by a Dutch tugboat.

But when they realised the boat was taking them to the port of Tan Tan in southern Morocco and not to the Spanish archipelago, they allegedly became aggressive towards the crew, pulling out knives.


Following what police called a "mutiny", the tugboat changed course for Fuerteventura, one of the Canary Islands, contacting the authorities to let them know what had happened.

On arrival, the nine migrants whose nationality was unclear, were arrested by police "on piracy charges", a police source told AFP.

The Canary Islands have long been a draw for migrants seeking a better life in Europe, with many boats setting off from Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania and even Senegal.

But the Atlantic route is particularly dangerous due to the strong currents, with migrants travelling in overloaded, often unseaworthy wooden boats without enough drinking water.

In the first nine months of the year, 14,976 migrants arrived on the archipelago, some 20 percent more than in the same period in 2022, interior ministry figures show.

Since the start of 2023, 140 migrants have died on the Atlantic route, according to figures published by the International Organization for Migration (OIM) in early September.

But the Spanish NGO Caminando Fronteras, which helps migrant boats in distress and the families of those who have gone missing, presumed drowned, en route, gives a much higher figure.

It says 778 people died on the Atlantic route to the Canaries in the first six months of 2023.



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