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EU urges Morocco to protect border with Spain after migrant influx

Published: (Updated: ) in European News by .

Thousands of people, including children, swam from Morocco to the Spanish enclave of Ceuta.

EU leaders on Tuesday urged Morocco to protect its border with Spain after more than 6,000 migrants arrived in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in a single day.

European Council President Charles Michel expressed “full solidarity” with Spain after holding urgent talks with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who canceled a trip to Paris to deal with what he termed a “serious crisis” for both his country and the EU.

European Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson told the European Parliament that the influx on Monday was unprecedented. About 1,500 of the recent arrivals are reported to be minors.

“It is worrying that at least 6,000 people, a big number of them children, have been swimming to Ceuta, putting their life in danger. Many had to be rescued. One person died,” Johansson said.

“The most important thing now is that Morocco continues to commit to prevent irregular departures and that those that do not have the right to stay are orderly and effectively returned.”

About 2,700 migrants have been returned to Morocco over the last few hours, Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said Tuesday. The Spanish army has been deployed to protect the border, which remains under pressure. Video footage shared by the Spanish security forces showed migrants throwing stones at the Spanish police officers patrolling a border fence at Ceuta.

“Spanish borders are European borders,” Johansson stressed, adding that the EU wants to build relations with Morocco “based on trust and shared commitments.”

“Migration is a key element in this regard,” she said.

Other EU leaders including European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also weighed in. “EU stands in solidarity with Ceuta & Spain,” von der Leyen tweeted.

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In a statement delivered Tuesday afternoon outside La Moncloa Palace, his official residence, Sánchez pledged to protect the territorial integrity of Ceuta as part of Spain and urged Morocco to respect the border. “This sudden arrival of irregular immigrants poses a serious crisis for Spain and the EU,” he said.

The sudden upsurge in arrivals came amid anger in Rabat over Spain’s decision to allow Brahim Ghali, a leader of the Polisario Front, which fights for the independence of Western Sahara from Morocco, into the country for medical treatment.

But, at a press conference, Grande-Marlaska avoided making a link between the influx and Morocco’s displeasure at Ghali’s presence in Spain.

Last month, Ghali was admitted under a false identity to a hospital in Logroño, northern Spain, to receive treatment for COVID-19 and stomach cancer. Spain’s Foreign Affairs Minister Arancha González Laya said Spain accepted a request from the Algerian government to take in Ghali “for strictly humanitarian reasons to receive medical assistance.”

Morocco’s Foreign Ministry criticized the move, saying it is “contrary to the spirit of partnership and good neighborly relations” between the two countries. Rabat accuses Ghali, aged 71, of war crimes in his decades of fighting for independence for Western Sahara, a territory Morocco regards as part of its own since Spain withdrew its military presence in the 1970s.

Source: POLITICO https://www.politico.eu/article/eu-urges-morocco-protect-border-spain-migrant-influx-ceuta/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication

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