Thousands of migrants swim from Morocco to Spain

Spain recorded a massive influx in North African immigrants with CNN reporting 6,000 people including 1500 minors swimming to the Spanish enclave of Ceuta on Monday. This was the largest influx of illegal immigrants to arise in Spanish territory at once. 

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The migrants arrived from two locations; Southern Cueta at Tarajal beach and Benzu beach. 

The two groups had either walked or swam their way past the rocky breakwaters that  marked the boundary between the two nations.  It is likely that they were supported by favorable weather and the short distance. Reports indicate that one person drowned while attempting the swim. On arrival, the Red Cross offered assistance in the form of blankets, dry clothes and food to the inhabitants on Tarajal beach. Most of the migrants made it in good health. Ceuta is located close to Morocco's northern coast. The port city is home to 84,000 Spaniards and a key stop for migrants making an attempt into Europe. 

Pedro Sánchez, the Spanish Prime Minister was forced to cancel his Paris trip and travel to Ceuta following the recent developments. He was due to attend the Africa financing summit held in the French capital. The recent surge comes at a time when relations between Rabat and Madrid are a little frosty after it emerged that Brahim Ghali the Polisario Front leader arrived in northern Spain sometime in mid-April where he is under hospitalization over Covid-19. The new wave of immigrants is sparking fears over an incoming diplomatic crisis. 

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A statement from the Spanish interior ministry called for the immediate reinforcement of civilian guards and national police to Ceuta. Spain and Morocco have also reached an agreement on the return of Moroccan citizens arriving at the beach. They also reiterated how both sides were in “permanent” contact. RFI reports that 1500 of the 6000 migrants who arrived on the Spanish beach have been returned. 

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EU Commissioner for Home Affairs gave a statement on what she described as the “unprecedented irregular arrivals to the city of Cuelta” and called for Morocco to “commit to prevent irregular departures” while those that lack the right to stay within the EU “are orderly and effectively returned.” She went further to reaffirm that “Spanish borders are European borders” while calling for relations with Morocco-based on “trust and shared commitments”.    

Spain’s Southern tips are geographically positioned to serve as the first stop of migrants seeking a better life in Europe - particularly at the points of Melilla and Ceuta. The same migrants make an attempt to swim along the coast or climb past the border fences separating them from Morocco. 

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In recent months, Spain has recorded a high number of migrants arriving at its shores. For Instance, Fontex reported that over 1000 people attempted to enter Europe through the Canary Islands last month. In the first quarter, over 3,300 migrants largely drawn from the Ivory Coast and Mali which is twice the number recorded over the same period last year. 

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