Thousands of migrants from Morocco swim to Ceuta | Free press

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Several thousand Moroccans swam across the Mediterranean to the Spanish North African enclave of Ceuta. Morocco had apparently previously suspended border controls. The trigger is likely political anger.

Madrid (AP) – They swam the Mediterranean or walked along the beach at low tide: at least 5,000 migrants have reached the Spanish exclave of Ceuta in North Africa from Morocco.

Moroccan police have effectively halted border control, Spanish media reported, citing eyewitnesses in Fnideq. As a possible reason, Spanish media cited the ire of the Rabat government that Spain allowed medical treatment to the head of the Polisario independence movement for Western Sahara, Brahim Ghali. Morocco claims the area on the southern border as part of its national territory. There was initially no explanation from Rabat.

About 1,500 of the migrants who arrived were minors, the Ceuta newspaper “El Faro” wrote. At least one person has drowned. The situation is chaotic, the exclave’s reception center is completely overcrowded and many migrants wander through the city of 85,000 inhabitants. The Spanish army in Ceuta provided logistical assistance and reinforced the protection of its own facilities. The central government in Madrid announced the deployment of 200 additional police officers.

The newspaper “El País” wrote that never before had so many people come to Ceuta at the same time. It’s like a “highway at sea”. Most of the people arriving are men, but there are also women and families. According to unconfirmed media reports, migrants from sub-Saharan countries also migrated to Ceuta in the city of Tangier.

Many Moroccans in the area of ​​Ceuta and the other Spanish exclave of Melilla in North Africa have lost their jobs and income since Morocco closed the border to the two areas in March 2020 due to the corona pandemic. Again and again people who worked differently in the exclaves demonstrated to end the closure.

On April 26, 128 Moroccans had reached Ceuta by swimming. Most of them were soon deported to Morocco. This time, too, it is to be expected that many of the migrants will be returned soon.

The Western Sahara on the North African Atlantic coast was a Spanish colony until 1975. Morocco controls large parts of the sparsely populated area on the southern border. The Polisario strives for independence for Western Sahara. Morocco only wants to give the region autonomy.

In December, US President Donald Trump, who had already been voted out but was still in office, recognized Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara. Since then, tensions have increased between Morocco and European countries critical of Trump’s decision. So, in early May, Rabat recalled his ambassador from Berlin.

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