Migrants flee plane after pregnant woman fakes labour to force emergency landing

Commercial flight from Morocco to Turkey was forced to land at Barcelona airport

Journalists at Barcelona's El Prat airport after a plane flying from Morocco to Turkey made an emergency landing. Reuters
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A pregnant woman faked going into labour and forced a plane to land in Spain, where more than two dozen migrants tried to escape, the Spanish government has said.

The commercial plane, flying from Morocco to Turkey, made an emergency landing at Barcelona's El Prat Airport, where 28 passengers, who police believe were migrants trying to enter Spain illegally, tried to escape by running on the tarmac.

Police caught 14 of them, including the pregnant woman who officials said had pretended she was going into labour on board the plane.

Five of those detained were immediately put back on the Pegasus Airlines plane, while another eight will be deported to Morocco. The 14 other people managed to escape from the plane, police said.

The pregnant woman was checked into hospital and found not to be in labour, the government said.

The plane had been scheduled to fly from Casablanca to Istanbul carrying a total of 228 passengers.

In October last year, a group of passengers fled a plane on to the runway on the Spanish island of Mallorca after an emergency landing under a false pretext, and 12 were arrested on charges of facilitating illegal immigration.

Those arrested included the passenger who had appeared to have suffered a diabetes attack, prompting the plane to take emergency action and land in Mallorca. Another 12 escaped.

Baby born on migrant rescue ship in Mediterranean

A pregnant woman fleeing Libya gave birth to a baby boy on Wednesday on board the charity ship that rescued her and dozens of others in the central Mediterranean, the charity said.

“Despite the joyful event, her conditions are now critical and she needs immediate specialised medical care,” said Doctors Without Borders, which operates the Geo Barents ship.

“For this reason, we are requesting the Maltese and Italian authorities to arrange an urgent medical evacuation for her and for her four sons.”

They were among 90 people rescued on Tuesday morning from what MSF called “an overcrowded and unstable rubber boat”, which had reportedly left Libya the night before.

Migrants cross from Morocco to Spanish enclave of Melilla — in pictures

Another pregnant woman was also on board and remains on the Geo Barents, among a total of 255 migrants rescued by MSF in recent days.

“The difficult journey, the harsh conditions, the extreme stress and the deep dehydration triggered Fatima's labour,” the charity said, using a pseudonym for the woman.

The boy was born seven hours later.

The Geo Barents was at the centre of a political row last month after being refused entry into an Italian port except to disembark its most vulnerable migrants, with the others ordered to go elsewhere.

They were finally allowed to disembark in Sicily, following intense criticism from NGOs.

But it was the first sign of a new approach under Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who took office in October vowing to reduce the number of migrants arriving on Italian shores from North Africa.

Dramatic clifftop rescue after migrants’ boat sinks in Greek waters — video

The central Mediterranean is the deadliest migration route in the world, with more than 17,000 deaths and disappearances recorded by the International Organisation for Migration since 2014.

Despite the risks, more than 96,800 migrants have disembarked on Italian shores so far this year, interior ministry figures show.

The vast majority are rescued by the Italian coastguard but Rome has strongly criticised the operation of the charity rescue ships.

Another charity vessel, the Ocean Viking, was taken in by France after being similarly refused a safe harbour in Italy, sparking a diplomatic row between Rome and Paris.

Migrant ship docks in France after Italy refuses entry — video

Updated: December 07, 2022, 11:53 PM