A passenger from the Air Arabia Maroc plane going to court in Mallorca

One of the passengers who was detained in Sa Pobla.

04-12-2021Alejandro Sepúlveda

The Air Arabia Maroc Airbus that made an emergency landing at Palma Son Sant Joan Airport on November 5 because of what turned out to be a faked medical emergency has been dubbed the "flying patera". A "patera" is the Spanish word used to describe small migrant boats.

A month on from the incident, six passengers are still wanted, while nineteen are in prison on charges of sedition and coercion. They could potentially face sentences of ten years. Two of the 25 are known to have left Mallorca. They took separate ferries to Barcelona. The police are convinced that the other four are still on the island, moving from house to house to avoid arrest and with the help of fellow Moroccans who legally reside in Mallorca. Of the 25 on the flight from Casablanca to Istanbul, 24 were Moroccan citizens; the other was Palestinian.

Police say that the group that organised the "forced" diversion of the plane planned to carry out a similar operation at a French airport in a few weeks. Investigators have established a link between the emergency landing in Palma and a Moroccan Facebook group Brooklyn, which has thousands of members.

Last July, this group published a post on Facebook, describing an operation very similar to that which happened in Palma. "Guys, listen, most of them want to emigrate. Follow this plan: we need 40 volunteers. All the boys from Brooklyn who book a plane to Turkey and fly over Spain ... ." This was how the message read, and it explained that a passenger will fake illness and then everyone will flee.

The police suspect that, in reality, they hadn't wanted to land on an island, where it is very difficult to hide, and that France or Italy had been their preference.

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