Guinea-Bissau hits out at Portugal in Syrian refugee row

12th December 2013, Comments 0 comments

Guinea-Bissau condemned Portuguese flag-carrier TAP on Thursday after it suspended flights to the former colony's capital following a row over the boarding of Syrian refugees.

TAP stopped the service on Tuesday after one of its aircraft from Bissau arrived in Lisbon with 74 Syrian refugees whom the airline said were holding false passports.

"I'm not surprised by TAP's reaction. It is to be expected from the Portuguese government. The cabinet will consider this and will make our position clear," government spokesman Fernando Vaz told a news conference.

Vaz said TAP had "confused commercial issues and politics" and risked being banned from Guinea-Bissau air space.

Portuguese media have reported that the TAP crew were forced to allow the Syrians to board after being threatened by the Guinea-Bissau authorities.

But an immigration official at Bissau airport told AFP the group, which included 30 children and a pregnant woman, "all had Turkish passports. This is why we let them board."

A police source in Bissau said the Syrians had entered the city via Turkey and Morocco.

Portuguese police said on Tuesday the refugees had been provided housing pending the outcome of asylum applications.

Guinea-Bissau gained independence from Portugal in 1974 after a war with its colonial power lasting more than ten years.

Portugal has never recognised the transitional authorities established after a military coup that overthrew the government in April last year.

© 2013 AFP

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