Conflict Alerts

Conflict Alerts # 379, 19 May 2021

Spain: A migrant crisis, as more than 5000 from Morocco enter the Spanish enclave
Mohamad Aseel Ummer

In the news
On 18 May, the Spanish government deployed troops in the North African enclave of Ceuta as over 5000 migrants have managed to cross into the Spanish territory by either climbing over the fences in the border between Ceuta and Morocco or to swim into the enclave's shores, one person was reported to have died during the attempt. The Spanish Prime Minister visited Ceuta and said: "We will restore order in the city and along our borders as quickly as possible." The Deputy Prime Minister was quoted to have stated: "What has taken place is an attack on our borders." The migrants include around 1,500 minors; nearly 2,700 of the migrants have already been deported back to Morocco.

On the same day, Home Affairs Commissioner of the European Parliament said: "The most important thing now is that Morocco continues to commit to preventing irregular departures and that those who do not have the right to stay are orderly and effectively returned." Her statement - "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," also underline the more considerable concern of the EU.

On 19 May, the BBC reported, "Morocco withdrew its ambassador for consultations after Spain's foreign minister told the envoy of her 'disgust' at what had happened." 

Issues at large
First, the case of migration into Spain. Cueta has become a hotspot for migrants from Africa attempting to flee to Europe for better living conditions. The enclave is the easiest and probably the cheapest gateway into Europe for African Migrants. The Tarajal and Fenediq are a few of the most used entry points for migrants from Morocco and other African Countries. Melilla and Ceuta are two North African Enclaves that migrants frequent from Africa in large numbers. The conditions in both regions have worsened in recent months primarily due to the COVID pandemic, putting authorities in a tight position. 

Second, the case of migration into Europe outside Spain. The migrants make perilous voyages in rickety makeshift boats, resulting in drowning and killing the onboard migrants, and most incidents go undocumented. Outside Spain, Italy and Greece have also been the first destination for the migrants from Africa. Also, Asian migrants try to enter Europe through the north African countries.

Third, the migration challenge and reluctance in Europe. Legal and illegal migrations from Africa to Europe has become a matter of concern in recent years. Mainly because of the massive numbers of migrants, this raises various red flags causing these countries to remain reluctant in admitting the migrants. Spain, Italy, and Greece being the southern European countries, undergo tremendous pressure. The lack of adequate infrastructure to cater to the needs such as housing and education of migrants, weak financial conditions now coupled with the threat of COVID poses serious questions. There is an evident rise in hostility towards these migrants, as they are often pictured as violent and involved in crime, so some raise the question of security. Ultra-nationalist groups attack the idea of allowing migrants to put authorities in a further dilemma. 

In perspective
The current influx has come in a heightened tension between Rabat and Madrid on Brahim Ghali, part of the rebel outfit of Polisario front, fighting for the independence of the West Saharan region from Moroccan authorities. Brahim was provided medical treatment in Spain for COVID, which exacerbated the relations between both countries. 

The Spanish authorities are deeply disturbed because the Moroccan forces allowed illegal migrants into Ceuta; this might tighten the ongoing tensions between both countries. The number of migrants has been steadily rising; nevertheless, the troops are engaged in continuous repatriation of the migrants. The Ceuta and Melilla region can expect to have large-scale security deployment in the future. Finally, migration as a crisis to the European community can pose challenges of unfamiliar character in the future.

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