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Mayor of Olhão argues that Portugal should not consider intercepted migrants as refugees

refugee olhaoThe Mayor of Olhão said today that the Portuguese authorities should not give refugee and international protection status to illegal immigrants from Morocco, such as the 11 who were intercepted on a small vessel yesterday off the coast near to Ria Formosa.

The case of these 11 illegal immigrants, who were intercepted by the Maritime Police off the island of Armona, near Olhão, is the second in the space of two months in the Algarve.

The president of the municipality of Olhão, António Miguel Pina, defended his employment his contestation to the individuals being given refugee status.

“It is a second sign, we had the first. When there is a second sign, we need to look closely at this topic. It is true that we have to welcome these Moroccan citizens as human beings, but we must also not confuse, in my opinion, what is the difference between citizens and migrants in the Mediterranean, from Syria and Libya, where there is, in fact, fighting, war and deplorable life situations, with these Morocco situations ”, said the mayor of Olhão.

Mr. Pina stressed that these cases are of “illegal immigration” and the occupants of the vessel intercepted today are “as far as we know, from the same city” from where the nine who came to a beach in Monte Gordo, in the municipality of Vila Real de Santo António, in December are from.

In addition, he considered, “giving them refugee status” would be “exaggerated”, because the situation in Morocco is not identical to that of countries that are in conflict, as in Libya or Syria.

“Otherwise, all people who try to enter from poorer countries, would have this refugee status. And the Kingdom of Morocco is a country that is in development and even has TGV, which we do not have here. There are people who still live in difficult economic situations, but we are not talking about refugees, in my opinion”, argued the mayor, in remarks to journalists on the sidelines of the military ceremony for the GNR Faro Territorial Command in Tavira.

Mr. Pina acknowledged that “they are human beings” and “Portugal is also a country of emigrants”, but he believes that these cases should be looked at “in the medium and long term”.

“And considering these people as refugees, in my view, doesn’t make sense. They are illegal immigrants, the country needs labour because there is a shortage of people to work. Not refugees though, because refugees are those who flee life situations of political pressure, of war, and it is not the same case”, he said.

Asked if he fears the opening of a new maritime immigration route from Northern Africa to the Algarve, the mayor replied that the two cases recorded in the Algarve “come from the same city, the former arrived successfully and, the latter are also successful, we can face such a situation ”.

“It is necessary to work with Morocco to understand and try to frame what is going on and even how we can meet this workforce that is available to emigrate”, reiterated the Mayor of Olhão, who also chairs AMAL.