17/02: 28 travellers left from Nador/Morocco to Almeria/Spain; intercepted by Moroccan Navy

19.02.2017 / 14:41 / Western Mediterranean Sea

Watch The Med Alarm Phone Investigations – 17th of February 2017

Case name: 2017_02_17-WM132
Situation: 28 travellers left from Nador/Morocco to Almeria/Spain; intercepted by Moroccan Navy
Status of WTM Investigation: Concluded
Place of Incident: Western Mediterranean Sea

Summary of the Case: On Friday the 17th of February 2017 at 8.47am, a contact person alerted the Alarm Phone to a rubber boat in distress with 28 travellers on board, who had left Nador/Morocco at about midnight. He forwarded several phone numbers to us and informed us that the boat’s engine had stopped working and that the boat was drifting. We tried to call the travellers directly and reached one person at 9am, but were not able to receive any information. Afterwards, we send several messages to the travellers, asking for their exact place and time of departure and their destination. At 9.40am, the travellers called us back and told us that they had left from Nador/Bocana at 1am and were heading in the direction of Almeria/Spain. At 9.45am, we called the Spanish rescue organization Salvamento Maritimo (S.M.) in Almeria and forwarded the travellers’ phone numbers and all the information we had received so far. The officer told us about a completed rescue operation on the same day, but we convinced him that this could not be the same boat, as we had just talked to the travellers, still being in distress. He promised to take care of the case. At 10am, we also informed S.M. via email about the boat in distress. At 10.17am, we called S.M. Almeria again and learned that they had also talked to the travellers and that they had alerted the rescue forces in Melilla/Spain and the Moroccan coastguard. The officer told us that the boat should still be close to the Moroccan coast, because the engine had broken down one hour after the travellers had departed. At 11.09am, we talked to the travellers again. They were still calm and without medical problems, yet they could not see any vessels around them and were urgently asking for help. We explained to them how to send us their GPS position via Whats App and they promised to try to do so. Ten minutes later, we talked again to them and they confirmed that their engine had broken down one hour after their departure. Still, they were not able to forward their GPS position. At 11.20am, in another call with S.M., we were told that S.M. did not receive a permission to enter the Moroccan air space or its territorial waters, so they could not send an airplane or rescue vessel. At 11.50am, we tried again to establish a connection to the travellers via Whats App, but without success. As S.M. was apparently not taking action, at 12.41am, we informed the Spanish UNHCR and asked them to put pressure on the rescue organization, in order to immediately take action. At the same time, we also spoke to S.M.’s headquarter in Madrid/Spain and urged them to send a rescue vessel from the Spanish exclave of Melilla, as the boat in distress was close to this city. After some negotiations, the officer promised to start a search operation within Spanish territorial waters around Melilla and also to ask the Moroccan authorities once more for a permission to enter their territorial waters. Beyond that, we also talked to a representative of the Spanish UNHCR, who also promised to put pressure on S.M. and to ask them to immediately start a search and rescue operation. At 1.08pm, we saw that the Spanish activist Helena Maleno was also reporting on this case on Twitter. At 1.10pm, we reached the travellers again. They were still ok and very calm. We again tried to explain to them how to forward their position to us, but without success. At 1.30pm, we saw on marinetraffic.com that the Spanish rescue vessel SALVAMAR ALCOR had left the port of Melilla. At 2.45pm, we called S.M. in Almeria again. They confirmed to us that their vessel SALVAMAR ALCOR was searching the boat in distress. They also told us that a Moroccan vessel was looking for the travellers’ boat as well. In the course of the next hour, we continuously tried to re-establish contact to the travellers. At 3.37pm, we reached them again. They told us that their boat was not moving anymore and that they could not see any other vessel in their vicinity. Afterwards, we were not able to reach the travellers anymore. At 4pm, we talked to the contact person again, who had initially informed us about the boat in distress, and asked him to keep us updated if he receives any further information. At 4.30pm, we realized on marinetraffic.com that the Spanish rescue vessel SALVAMAR ALCOR was heading back to the port of Melilla. At 4.40pm, the contact person informed us that he had received the information from another person who had been in contact with the travellers, that they were only 500 metres away from the coast of Melilla. At 4.55pm, we saw that SALVAMAR ALCOR had arrived back at the port of Melilla. Immediately afterwards, at 4.56pm, we called S.M. Almeria again and were told that S.M. had searched for the boat, but without success, and that they had just received a confirmation from the Moroccan authorities that they had found the boat and have picked up the 28 travellers and have brought them back to Nador/Morocco. At 4.57pm, we informed our contact person about this interception. At 5.08pm, we tried to call the travellers again, but they did not pick up our call. Afterwards, their phones were switched off and we didn’t reach them anymore.
Last update: 14:09 Mar 24, 2017
Credibility: UP DOWN 0
Layers »
  • Border police patrols
    While the exact location of patrols is of course constantly changing, this line indicates the approximate boundary routinely patrolled by border guards’ naval assets. In the open sea, it usually correspond to the outer extent of the contiguous zone, the area in which “State may exercise the control necessary to prevent infringement of its customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary laws” (UNCLOS, art. 33). Data source: interviews with border police officials.
  • Coastal radars
    Approximate radar beam range covered by coastal radars operating in the frame of national marine traffic monitoring systems. The actual beam depends from several different parameters (including the type of object to be detected). Data source: Finmeccanica.
  • Exclusive Economic Zone
    Maritime area beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea in which the coastal state exercises sovereign rights for the purposes of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living or non-living, the seabed and its subsoil and the superjacent waters. Its breadth is 200 nautical miles from the straight baselines from which the territorial sea is measured (UNCLOS, Arts. 55, 56 and 57). Data source: Juan Luis Suárez de Vivero, Atlas of the European Seas and Oceans
  • Frontex operations
    Frontex has, in the past few years, carried out several sea operations at the maritime borders of the EU. The blue shapes indicate the approximate extend of these operations. Data source: Migreurop Altas.
  • Mobile phone coverage
    Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) network coverage. Data source: Collins Mobile Coverage.
  • Oil and gas platforms
    Oil and gas platforms in the Mediterranean. Data source:
  • Search and Rescue Zone
    An area of defined dimensions within which a given state is has the responsibility to co-ordinate Search and Rescue operations, i.e. the search for, and provision of aid to, persons, ships or other craft which are, or are feared to be, in distress or imminent danger. Data source: IMO availability of search and rescue (SAR) services - SAR.8/Circ.3, 17 June 2011.
  • Territorial Waters
    A belt of sea (usually extending up to 12 nautical miles) upon which the sovereignty of a coastal State extends (UNCLOS, Art. 2). Data source: Juan Luis Suárez de Vivero, Atlas of the European Seas and Oceans

Related Reports

16:48 Oct 21, 2017 / Western Mediterranean, Morocco/Spain Kms
20/10 Alarm Phone alerted to boat carrying 22 people, returned to Morocco
14:39 Dec 13, 2017 / Western Mediterranean, Morocco/Spain Kms
12/12 Alarm Phone alerted to boat carrying 37 people from Morocco, rescued to Melilla/Spain
14:20 May 07, 2016 / Western Mediterranean Sea Kms
06/05: 37 persons rescued to Almería
18:27 Nov 26, 2017 / Spain, Western Mediterranean Kms
25/11 Alarm Phone alerted to boat carrying 34 people from Morocco, rescued to Spain
15:29 Jan 24, 2018 / Western Mediterranean Sea Kms
23/01: 16 travellers intercepted to Nador/Morocco