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Around 40 passengers with Lebanese passports and, apparently, of Palestinian origin have been detained at Barcelona's El Prat Airport since Monday, after taking advantage of their flight's short stopover to seek political asylum in the Catalan capital. They were on a flight from Cairo bound for Bogotá and Quito, which had a stopover in Barcelona, and it was there that the 39 passengers left the plane and are now seeking asylum.

They are being held in a space within the airport for people who seek asylum, and have been there since Monday, when their plane landed at Barcelona airport and they refused to continue the trip, asserting that they intended to formalize asylum applications.

Earlier case of 'stopover migration' 

The charter flight, which landed at Barcelona airport from Cairo last Monday at 11 am, is the second recent case in the Spanish state of apparent use of airport stopovers to seek permanent entry. On November 5th, several passengers of a Royale Air Maroc flight, flying from Casablanca to Istanbul, landed at Palma airport on the island of Mallorca, after a passenger claimed to be undergoing a medical emergency, later shown to be fake. While the aircraft was on the ground and waiting for the ambulance to arrive, around twenty passengers disembarked and fled across the airport.

Sedition accusation

The authorities halted all movements through Palma airport, and it remained closed for three hours. Public prosecutors are currently considering what charges to lay against those of the protagonists who are now in custody. Options include attempted irregular entry into Spain by air, and crimes of public disorder, but another possibility would be a more serious crime such as sedition, which includes sentences of up to eight years in prison.

Just over a week ago, authorities issued national arrest warrants for the migrants who fled. Having confirmed the complete list of passports and identities of the migrants involved in this event, as well as all the passengers travelling on the Casablanca-Istanbul flight, police believe there may be thirteen people who fled from the plane and are still at large.

Provisional jail for 12 who were caught

Meanwhile, on Monday, a court in the city of Palma ordered provisional imprisonment without bail for twelve of the young people who had agreed in a Facebook group to force the Royale Air Maroc flight to land in Mallorca using the excuse of a medical emergency. Those in custody have been initially charged with two different offences of sedition, public disorder and favouring irregular immigration.

An entry in the Facebook group made in July outlined an action very similar to what happened at Palma airport two weeks ago.


Main image: El Prat Airport / ACN