Nine Migrants Arrested for Piracy After Rescue by Offshore Vessel

Singapore freight forwarders – Star Concord
03-Oct-2023

Spanish authorities have arrested nine migrants on allegations of piracy for threatening the crew of the ship that rescued them off the coast of Morocco. 

On Monday night, the OSV Vos Pace encountered two migrant boats at a position about 50 nautical miles northeast of Lanzarote, the easternmost isle of the Canary Islands. The first boat was found at about 2330 hours, and had about 44 people aboard. The second was located shortly after, and had another 35 occupants. The majority were men from North African nations, along with a dozen women and children. 

All 79 were taken aboard. Since the encounter occured in waters within the Moroccan area of responsibility for rescue at sea, Vos Pace headed for the port of Tan Tan, Morocco to deliver the survivors. 

While under way for Tan Tan, nine migrants “mutinied” aboard the OSV and ordered the crew to head for Spanish territory in the Canary Islands, where they would have the opportunity to claim asylum on EU soil. The crew changed course for Fuerteventura, and notified Spanish authorities in advance that some of the migrants had become “very aggressive” and drew knives when they learned that they were headed back to Morocco, according to EFE. 

Spanish police in riot gear met the ship at the pier and arrested the nine suspects. The men face charges of piracy, which would carry a minimum sentence of ten years in prison if they are convicted. 

The remaining 70 migrants rescued by Vos Pace will be questioned and processed. 

Hijackings perpetrated by rescued migrants have been reported before. In 2020, British troops boarded and seized control of the tanker Nave Andromeda from a group of seven stowaways, who had allegedly threatened the crew. The captain had ordered a retreat to the ship’s citadel for safety. The shipowner later said that it was “not a hijacking,” and UK prosecutors declined to prosecute the suspects, who went on to apply for UK asylum.   

There have also been apparent misunderstandings: In June, Italian military commandos responded to a report that 15 knife-wielding “pirates” had taken control of the ro/ro Galatea Seaways; on boarding, the team found that the suspects included one pregnant woman, one man with a broken ankle and two children with symptoms of hypothermia, and the stowaways claimed that they had used a knife to cut open the canvas covering of the truck in which they were hiding. 

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