Ceuta, alongside Melilla, is a Spanish enclave in North Africa, and this week has been the scene of thousands of migrants swimming and sailing on to its beaches…
This week, thousands of Moroccan migrants stormed the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, alongside Melilla, one of two Spanish territories in northern Africa.
The number of migrants attempting to enter Ceuta in rubber dinghies or even simply swimming is estimated at 8,000. Most were young men but some families also made the attempt, and as many as 1,500 children were among the number.
Around half have now been sent back, but it is another example of the pinch-points where economic migrants attempt to break what some call ‘Fortress Europe’.
The difference appears to be that, while in Melilla Moroccan border guards helped the Spanish Guardia Civil to repel the insurgents, according to Spanish officials talking to Spanish news agency EFE, in Ceuta border guards on the Moroccan side simply watched as people took to the sea.
“I said goodbye to my family and left with nothing,” said Mohamed, a 30-year-old from Morocco, speaking to Spanish broadcaster RTVE. He said his motivation was economic: “I want to work and help my family. All of my friends, we want to work.”
Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez described the influx as “a serious crisis” for Europe, and the regional leader of Ceuta attacked what he called “Morocco’s passivity”.
Armed Spanish guards are now patrolling the beach there and were filmed throwing smoke bombs to discourage the would-be migrants. Guardia Civil officers also waded into the sea to help children get to shore.
Last month Spain admitted Brahim Ghali, the leader of Western Sahara’s rebel Polisario Front, to hospital. This angered Morocco, though Spain said the decision was taken on humanitarian grounds.
The Polisario Front aims for Western Sahara to be an independent state and not part of Morocco. It is backed by Algeria, traditionally a regional rival to Morocco.