LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Authorities in Portugal are on guard against a possible new migrant route from North Africa to Europe after eight Moroccans arrived in a small wooden boat on the southern Portuguese coast.
The men aged between 16 and 26 say they spent five days at sea travelling some 700 kilometers (430 miles) from Morocco’s west coast. Portugal’s Foreigner and Border Service said Thursday they will be allowed to stay in the country.
Hundreds of thousands of migrants have crossed the Mediterranean Sea to southern Europe in recent years but they have not headed to Portugal, on Europe’s southwest Atlantic coast. Portugal has, however, taken in taken in dozens of migrants rescued from the Mediterranean.
The men arrived Wednesday in Monte Gordo, a town in the Algarve region that is close to Spain.
Portugal’s Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Admiral Antonio Ribeiro, said “we have to be vigilant” and keep a close watch on the southern coast in case migrants switch to Portugal.
“It’s not much different going to Spain or the Algarve, it’s just a question of choice," Ribeiro told the national news agency Lusa, in comments published by newspaper Diario de Noticias on Thursday.
Officials said the men possessed no identification documents. Their boat, though rickety and open-topped, had a satellite navigation system and two outboard motors.