By: Hana Saada
Spain “urgently” summoned, in Madrid on Tuesday, Morocco’s Ambassador, Karima Benyaich, over the massive influx of thousands of Moroccans, including minors, into the Spanish North African enclave of Ceuta, on the northern tip of Morocco across from Gibraltar, vowing to restore order amid increasing diplomatic tensions with Morocco.
A sudden influx of 8000 migrants of all ages, including about 1,500 minors, and even entire families, poured into Spain, swimming from Morocco, on Monday, using inflatable boats and dinghies around the borders fences or walking across at low tide into Spanish enclave of Ceuta in northern Africa, which became along with Melilla enclave magnets for African migrants.
This unprecedented arrival of irregular migrants in the history of illegal migration was dubbed, by Spain, as “a serious crisis for Europe”, as declared by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. Experts explicated that Morocco, initially, allowed this flow as a means of pressuring Madrid over its decision to hospitalize the President of Western Sahara Ibrahim Ghali.
As a reaction, Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya summoned Morocco’s Ambassador in Madrid to lodge rejection of the massive entry of Moroccan illegal migrants in the Spanish city of Ceuta.
“I reminded her that border control has been, and must remain, a shared responsibility of Spain and Morocco,” said the Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya.
In a response to the Spanish news agency EFE, regarding any relation between Spain the hospitalization of Western Sahara President, Brahim Ghali in spain and the migrant influx to the Spanish city of Ceuta, Spain Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya said that “she contacted the Moroccan authorities in this regard.”
In this vein, she went further saying: “I do not imagine that the lives of young people and minors could be endangered in response to a humanitarian action.”
The Spanish official stressed that her country will protect its borders, send back illegal migrants following the readmission deal previously drawn up with neighbors and defend its territorial integrity.
This influx of Moroccan migrants also sparked a reaction from the Spanish political class. While condemning the migratory flow from Morocco, several political groups called on the Moroccan authorities to assume their responsibilities and act quickly and effectively.
Caballas Coalition spokesman Mohamed Ali warned of the “gravity” of what happened. “Our land should not suffer from the foreign policy dispute between Spain and Morocco,” he said.
The leader of the Movement for Dignity and Citizenship “MDyC”, Fatima Hamed, described this influx as a “tragedy”, stressing that the city of Ceuta is not ready to welcome so many people and to cope with such a phenomenon. “Ceuta is not prepared for such situations,” she underlined on her Twitter account.
For its part, the section of the Vox party in Ceuta, severely, criticized the passivity of the Moroccan authorities in the face of such a tragedy, calling on the government to send “urgently the army and the navy to the border with Morocco to curb the migratory pressure “.
The president of Vox Ceuta, Juan Sergio Redondo, recalled that he has never ceased to warn against the “blackmail of Morocco”, recalling that Spain should denounce Morocco before international bodies so that the country is economically and politically sanctioned “.
Condemning the influx of Moroccan migrants, the leader of the Popular Party at the national level, Pablo Casado called on the Spanish government “to immediately guarantee the integrity of the borders and to coordinate with Morocco for the return of immigrants to their country”.
Crisis for Spain, and also for Europe:
European Commissioner for Internal Affairs Eva Johansson expressed concern over this influx of migrants, considering it “worrying”, while calling on Morocco to “block Ceuta migrant’s crossings from its lands”. She tweeted that “the most important thing now is that Morocco continues to prevent irregular departures,” adding that “Spanish borders are European borders. The European Union wants to build a relationship with Morocco based on trust and shared commitments. Migration is a key element in this regard.”
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted that the “EU stands in solidarity with Ceuta & Spain” and that the bloc needs “common EU solutions to migration management.”
“This can be achieved with agreement on the New Pact on Migration. Stronger partnerships based on mutual trust and joint commitments with key partners like Morocco are crucial,” she said.
On another note, Spain deployed troops to Ceuta to patrol the border with Morocco following the spike in arrivals. Armored vehicles were guarding Ceuta’s beach on Tuesday, and soldiers and police used batons to clear migrants from the beach and threw smoke bombs to discourage others from crossing. Approximately, 4,000 migrants had already been sent back to Morocco by Spain, under the readmission deal.
To this end, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez cancelled a trip to France’s Paris, initially, to attend a French-led summit on financial aid for Africa. Instead, he is focusing on the Ceuta crisis, declaring maximum firmness with a view to restoring normalcy to the enclave as Spain’s priority now “is to guarantee traffic control on the border with Morocco” and to provide the cities of Ceuta and Melilla “with all the necessary means to solve the humanitarian crisis caused by the arrival of so many people and proceed with the return of any person who has entered Ceuta and Melilla irregularly, as is foreseen in the agreements signed for years by Spain and Morocco.
Sanchez paid a visit to the tiny enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on Tuesday, vowing to restore “order to the city and its borders.”
“Its citizens must know that they have the absolute support of the Government of Spain and the utmost firmness to ensure their safety and defend their integrity as part of the country against any challenge,” tweeted the Spanish Premier.
Morocco uses migrants to pressure Spain over Western Sahara:
The spike in arrivals sparked widespread controversy on social media visitors who linked this record number over a single day, directly, to diplomatic tensions between Morocco and Spain. Analysts elucidated that Morocco is turning a blind eye to thousands of migrants heading to Spain’s Ceuta enclave with a view to pressing Madrid to recognize its alleged sovereignty over the Western Sahara.
Earlier, fresh dispute erupted between Morocco and Spain over the latter’s decision to host Western Sahara President, Ibrahim Ghali who has been hospitalized at a hospital in Logroño in northern Spain since April 18th, after he was infected with COVID-19.
His presence in Spain has angered Morocco which has accused the government in Madrid of endangering and sacrificing relations with Rabat.
Morocco, last month, summoned Ricardo Díez-Hochleitner, the Spanish Ambassador to Rabat, to complain about Ghali’s presence in Spain.
Spain, for its part, responded by clarifying that the decision to hospitalize the Sahrawi President is humanitarian-based move as Spain acted on purely humanitarian grounds.
In addition, media have announced, in recent days, that the Spanish courts have initiated proceedings against the Saharawi president for alleged “crimes against humanity”, false information, categorically, denied by the Spanish High Court.
Last week, a tug of war was, again, straining relations between Madrid and Rabat, more than the tensions erupted over Spain’s decision to receive, for medical treatment, the Sahrawi President Ghali. The Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a strongly worded statement rejecting Madrid’s response for the decision to receive Ghali.
The Moroccan ministry said that the failure of the Spanish authorities to inform their Moroccan counterparts of Ghali’s hospitalization was not a “simple omission but rather a premeditated act, a voluntary choice and a sovereign decision by Spain, of which Morocco takes full note.”
As a reaction, Spanish Foreign Minister, Arancha Gonzalez Laya, said Spain had “nothing to add to what has been said” regarding Ghali’s case.
Morocco resorts to hostile politics against all countries that adhere to the application of international legitimacy in Western Sahara, and refuse to acknowledge its alleged sovereignty over the Sahrawi lands listed as a non-decolonized territory.
It is worth recalling that on December 10, 2020, the former American President Donald Trump announced that the United States would officially recognize Morocco’s claimed sovereignty over Western Sahara, as a result of Morocco agreement to normalize ties with the Zionist Entity.