The European Union has spoken out in defence of Spain, after thousands of migrants from Morocco entered the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in north Africa.
“Europe expresses its solidarity with Ceuta and Spain,” said European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday (18 May), in a tweet.
At least 6,000 migrants, including mothers cradling children and whole families, reached the exclave from Morocco on Monday and Tuesday. They had swum through the Mediterranean Sea or walked along the beach at low tide. At least one person had drowned, according to Spanish media.
The Moroccan police had effectively stopped controlling the border, tacitly encouraging the irregular migrants to cross into Spanish territory, international media reported.
About 1,500 of the migrants who arrived were minors, wrote the newspaper “El Faro”, which is published in Ceuta. At least one person had drowned. The situation is chaotic, the reception centre of the exclave is completely overcrowded and many of the migrants are wandering around the city with 85,000 inhabitants.
In the meantime, the authorities in Ceuta have started to accommodate the adults in a stadium. They were then to be returned to Morocco, “El Faro” reported.
Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska confirmed that Spain has sent 2,700 people back to Morocco on Tuesday, adding that Madrid had sent 200 extra police to Ceuta to reinforce the 1,200 officers currently guarding the border with Morocco. Spain has a deal with Morocco to expel them en masse without hearing asylum claims, but unaccompanied minors can stay.
Spanish media cited as a possible reason why Morocco had apparently suspended border controls the anger of the country’s government that Spain allowed head of the Polisario independence movement for Western Sahara, Brahim Ghali to receive medical treatment in Madrid.
In December, US President Donald Trump, who had already been voted out of office but was still in office, recognised Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara.
Since then, tensions have been growing between Morocco and European countries that criticised Trump’s decision. Morocco only wants to grant autonomy to the region while the Polisario is fighting for self-determination for the territory.