Spanish rescue operation off east side of the Rock
A Spanish maritime rescue helicopter and vessel were involved in a search and rescue operation off La Linea and in British Gibraltar territorial waters yesterday.
They were looking for the remaining occupants of a small vessel that had earlier dropped off a group of migrants on a beach in La Atunara, La Linea.
Seven migrants were found on the beach and another six were plucked from the sea opposite La Linea in the early Thursday morning, according to Spanish press reports.
The vessel had reportedly come within metres of the beach despite the very rough sea conditions.
When the people who managed to swim ashore told the Guardia Civil that others were missing, the search was widened.
By mid-afternoon, beachgoers in Gibraltar could see a Spanish helicopter flying close to shore while a Salvamento Marítimo vessel, the Salvamar Atria, could be seen in British Gibraltar territorial waters.
The ship tracking website Marine Traffic showed the Spanish vessel conducted extensive manoeuvres inside BGTW during the course of the day.
The Spanish authorities had alerted Gibraltar to the search and rescue operation off La Linea in the morning, but it was not clear last night whether the same step was taken later in the day.
“The Gibraltar Port Authority did not coordinate a search and rescue in BGTW [on Thursday] evening,” a spokesman for No.6 Convent Place said.
“If there is no active SAR [search and rescue] and there is no request for assistance or notification, we will treat the presence of Spanish vessels and aircraft in Gibraltar as a serious incursion.”
A spokesman for the Royal Gibraltar Police, which routinely assists in search and rescue operations, said it had not been involved and had not been informed of any operation in BGTW.