Marid and Rabat continue tense interactions even as thousands of Moroccan refugees arrive by boat to Ceuta. Some of the migrants didn’t even bother with the boat, arriving by their own power, simply swimming to the Spanish enclave. Ceuta is only separated from Morocco by a small fence, as it is technically on the African continent. Ceuta is separated from Spain by the Strait of Gibraltar, making it a major focal point for immigrants into Europe.
The massive influx of immigrants into the city started around 2 AM on Monday, with people continuing to pour in throughout Tuesday morning. Authorities report that many of the immigrants are only teenagers.
Ceuta is one of only two European enclaves that share a land border with Africa. The other is Melilla, which also borders Morocco. These two cities are constantly destinations for immigrants looking to enter Europe, as they are significantly easier to get into than crossing the Strait of Gibraltar.
African immigration into Spain is a controversial topic for the country. In April, when 100 migrants from Morocco entered Ceuta, Spain deported most of them. Meanwhile, diplomatic tensions between the two countries remain extremely terse, leading some to speculate that Morocco could be loosening its controls on immigration to punish Spain.
At issue for Morocco is the presence of Polisario Front leader Brahim Ghali in Spain. According to reports, Ghali received hospital treatment for a respiratory illness in Spain in mid-April and is still there as of the time of this writing. The Polisario Front is a controversial independence movement within Morocco that is seeking to break Western Sahara from the rest of Morocco.
As a result of Ghali’s treatment in Spain, the timing of the influx of migrants strikes many commentators as suspicious. Such a huge arrival of newcomers is a massive institutional challenge for Spain, which is put in the scenario of having to either deport a large number of people or devote resources to helping them relocate to Europe.
This “lose-lose” scenario is the same one facing much of the EU, which has struggled with finding a way to address the ever-growing migrant population coming in from Africa and the Middle East. Humanitarian efforts to address both the crises at the border and the conditions that lead to people seeking a better life in Europe remain a top concern for Brussels.