From file: Journalists flocked to Barcelona's El Prat airport to report on the emergency landing that took place on December 7, 2022 | Photo: REUTERS/Nacho Doce
From file: Journalists flocked to Barcelona's El Prat airport to report on the emergency landing that took place on December 7, 2022 | Photo: REUTERS/Nacho Doce

A group of 22 migrants who fled a plane in 2021 after it made an unscheduled landing on the island of Mallorca have been provisionally released after spending 14 months in pre-trial detention.

The group of mostly male Moroccan migrants were on an Air Arabia Maroc plane traveling from Morocco to Istanbul in Turkey in November 2021. After one of the passengers claimed to be suffering from diabetic shock, the plane made an emergency landing in Son Sant Joan Airport on the Spanish island of Mallorca.

Once in hospital, the passenger claiming to be ill was found to be healthy, reported Spanish media and the German news agency dpa. While the plane was still on the tarmac, the group of passengers stormed off the plane and ran towards the fence that surrounds the airport.

Spanish authorities arrested all 20 passengers and two suspected helpers a few weeks later. They say they believe the group had planned the action in order to gain entry to the EU. The men were put in pre-trial detention but on Tuesday, January 17, a regional court granted the group an application for provisional release.

Destined for deportation

However, the migrants were obliged to hand in their passports to the Spanish authorities and will have to report regularly. According to dpa, "Judicial circles said they now face deportation to their homeland." German language Mallorca Magazin also reported that the group had been released from pre-trial detention only to be brought directly into a repatriation detention center.

More recently, in December 2022, another plane, this time operated by Pegasus Airlines and flying from the Moroccan city of Casablanca to Istanbul in Turkey, was forced to land in the Catalan city of Barcelona after a pregnant woman claimed her waters had broken.

During this incident, 28 passengers fled the plane and only 14 have been caught by the police. Once in hospital, reported dpa, doctors established that the woman was not close to having her child and her waters had not broken.

The group in December managed to flee the plane, reported the French news agency Agence France Presse (AFP) despite being met by an ambulance and three police patrols. Police detained 14 of them, said the agency "including the pregnant woman, but five were returned to the plane at their own request after being accepted back by the airline staff."

A new strategy?

The woman was later arrested for "disturbing the public order by claiming she had gone into labor." AFP reported in December that those arrested "would be returned to Morocco."

Spanish authorities told Mallorca Magazin that this could be a "new strategy by smugglers." Another german-speaking local newspaper Mallorca Zeitung reported that two of the 22 could not be sent directly back to Morocco. The man who is accused of faking an illness to force the plane to land is being charged with illegal immigration and therefore will have to face a Spanish court before he could be potentially deported.

In addition, according to Mallorca Zeitung, the man is also facing further investigations after he is thought to have attacked a police officer while in pre-trial detention. The other man is reportedly of Palestinian origin. Spain does not have any agreements with his country and so he can also not be deported.

With dpa and AFP


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