Brussels (Brussels Morning) Some 5,000 migrants crossed illegally from Morocco to the Spanish autonomous city of Ceuta in North Africa on Monday, DW reported.
Ceuta is one of two Spanish enclaves that make up Africa’s only land border with the EU, making it a popular route among people in Africa looking to enter the bloc.
Monday’s influx represents an unprecedented spike since only 475 migrants entered Ceuta from Morocco in the period between 1 January and 15 May this year.
Ceuta officials claim Morocco eased controls
Unnamed local officials have accused Morocco of deliberately relaxing border control over a diplomatic spat with Spain.
The Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, African Cooperation and Moroccan Expatriates complained last month when Spain treated Polisario Front rebel movement leader Brahim Ghali for COVID-19, stating at the time that this was “inconsistent with the spirit of partnership and good neighbourliness”.
The ministry said Spain would face consequences for the move. Madrid had justified the decision to treat Ghali on humanitarian grounds.
Analysts warn border liaison now in jeopardy
Analysts pointed out the quarrel could jeopardise cooperation between Spain and Morocco in the fight against illegal migration.
Mohammed Ben Aisa of the Northern Observatory for Human Rights NGO said the Ghali incident played a role in the spike, and that good weather was also a contributing factor.
“The information that we have is that the Moroccan authorities reduced the usually heavy militarization of the coasts, which come after Morocco’s foreign ministry statement about Spain’s hosting of Brahim Ghali”, he observed.
On Monday, Spain’s Ministry of the Interior noted that the country had been “working tirelessly on a migration policy that concerns the whole of the European Union and Morocco, the country of origin of the people who have arrived”. Morocco cooperates with Spain in the fight against illegal migration in exchange for regular payments and training for its security forces. Moroccan intelligence provides the EU with information in the fight against extremism.