5,000 migrants reach Ceuta in full view of the Moroccan authorities

by Lorraine Williamson
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MADRID – UPDATE – At least 5,000 migrants without documents, including 1500 minors, swam to the Spanish enclave of Ceuta on Monday from the Fnideq in Morocco. Meanwhile, the Moroccan authorities stood by and watched. 

According to El País, the arrival of the 5,000 migrants took place throughout Monday. One of whom is said to have died. This is after several weeks of growing diplomatic tension between Morocco and Spain.

The disagreement arose after Moroccan intelligence services discovered the general secretary of the Polisario Front, Brahim Ghali, had been admitted to hospital. He had a false identity and was infected with Covid-19. Moroccan diplomacy regretted this act and warned the Spanish government against reprisals. 

Record number 

The fact that such a large number of undocumented migrants entered Ceuta within one day is unprecedented. This record figure has not been reached even during the most critical periods of the migration crisis. The Canary Islands registered 2,000 arrivals on the weekend of 7 and 8 November last year. In 2018, the month of June was the most complicated in this regard with nearly 2,800 people entering Spain between June 21-27. 

Just the beginning 

Government sources warn that this is only the beginning of a period of massive outflows of Moroccan emigrants. It concerns both Moroccans and sub-Saharan Africans. 

The event is also worrying due to the fact that it occurs during times of corona measures. The borders of Morocco, including those with Ceuta and Melilla, have been closed since March 2020. And a few weeks ago, the country stopped air connections with around forty countries. 

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Overcrowded reception centres Ceuta 

It is now up to the authorities in Ceuta (more than 84,000 inhabitants on 18.5 km2) to tackle the humanitarian problem and receive the people in the already overcrowded reception centres. The authorities in Madrid and the European Union must meet with Rabat on a diplomatic level. 

Emergency meeting 

Spain’s Interior Minister Grande-Marlaska organised an emergency meeting on Monday afternoon to address the situation. It was also attended by the Secretary of State for Security and the general directors of the police and the Guardia Civil. 

Additional police deployed 

It was agreed an additional 50 officers of the Guardia Civil would guard the most susceptible passageways between Morocco and Ceuta. The National Police forces in Ceuta are being expanded by more than 150 officers. The Interior also wants to negotiate with Morocco about the return of many of today’s migrants. A similar arrangement was also made on April 26 when 128 young migrants reached Ceuta by swimming. According to police sources, this return is already taking place. 

Moroccan authorities completely passive 

A resident of Fnideq informed the newspaper El País that the Moroccan police were completely passive and simply turned the other way. Other Spanish sources confirm this. In addition, numerous videos circulate on social media showing people swimming and walking over the border with no-one stopping them. 

No space for 5000 migrants

Monday from 3am more and more people started arriving in Ceuta. Migrants entered through Tarajal beach and the Benzú area. More continued to arrive between 4.30pm and 7pm. Some migrants have since been taken to a warehouse in the industrial estate of Tarajal, where they are in quarantine. However, the warehouse can accommodate only 200 people. Therefore, this is not suitable for the 5000 migrants from Monday. 

According to local media, some people already reached the city and spread through different neighbourhoods, especially the El Príncipe neighbourhood. 

Weaknesses in the boundary 

Since Morocco closed the border crossings last year, a constant flow of migrants have still managed to reach Ceuta. This is a result of many weak points in the border. Similarly, the other Spanish enclave of Melilla also has an influx. Meanwhile, local sources say there are still hundreds more waiting to make the crossing.

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