Last Saturday, Nov. 6, Mallorca police arrested 12 passengers and were looking for a dozen passengers from a flight from Morocco to Turkey who fled a plane after it made an emergency landing. The incident was described as “unprecedented” and likely linked to illegal immigration.
The illegal exodus came after a passenger on a trip from Morocco to Turkey became ill, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing in Palma de Mallorca, France 24 reported.
At a press conference, Aina Calvo, the Spanish government’s representative in the Balearic Islands, stated that “Twelve people have been arrested and 12 more have yet to be found,” she added that “such events have never taken place before at any airport in Spain.”
A passenger “apparently suffered a diabetic coma and was taken by ambulance to hospital with a companion,” police said, but on arrival was found to be fine and soon discharged. The passenger was arrested on suspicion of having faked illness to allow himself and others to enter Spain illegally.
“He was arrested on suspicion of encouraging illegal immigration and violating Spanish immigration law,” according to a police statement, which also stated that his companion had fled.
Other passengers also fled the plane across the tarmac and managed to get through the airport’s perimeter fences while he was being treated in the hospital, according to Daily Mail.
The chaos forced several more planes to divert and kept the airport closed for more than three hours.
While police searched for several missing passengers, Calvo said the investigation was looking into whether this was a well-planned escape or a more spontaneous decision by some passengers to flee after the plane had landed.
“So far we don’t have any data that allows us to affirm that this was an orchestrated operation,” Ms. Calvo said. “We have to finalize the investigation, to establish causality and then decide whether we have to revise some proceedings” to avoid a repeat.
Those who fled the plane would face charges of violating flight safety standards and illegal entry into Spain and would be deported to their home countries, according to Calvo. She went on to say that none of them had asked for political asylum.
The plane ultimately resumed its journey to Istanbul with all of its passengers on board.
The airport in Palma reopened just after midnight. 13 planes had to be rerouted to Barcelona and other airports, according to Aena, Spain’s national airport operator, and more than 40 other planes were canceled or delayed significantly.