Algeria meets threat and releases control of migration route to Spain

by Lorraine Williamson
migration route to Spain

MADRID – On Friday, Algeria launched a new warning about the discomfort the country is currently experiencing with Spain. The threat that Algeria would relinquish control of the sea migration route to Spain appears to be coming true. 

The arrival of several boats to the coast of Almería proved the permissiveness of the Algerian border control. That the authorities there would turn a blind eye had already been predicted by the state security forces and bodies from the moment that Spain strengthened diplomatic ties with Morocco in March. 

The boats carrying migrants on the coast of Almeria can be added to the wave of arrivals recorded by the Balearic Islands three weeks ago. Then six boats with more than 100 migrants on board arrived at different beaches in less than 24 hours. 

Algeria is using migration as a means of leverage for the first time. This is very similar to Rabat’s response at the height of its anger at the government of Spain. 

Friday’s migration episode in Almeria – “which will not be the last,” according to Guardia Civil sources in El Mundo – happened simultaneously with the conclusion of the NATO summit. The protection of the borders of Ceuta and Melilla was very much on the agenda here. 

The boats arrived early in the morning, but not all at once as is usually the case. The same sources say a single semi-rigid boat with a powerful engine left its passengers on the shore. He then returned at high speed towards Algeria. Then, the same boat returned after a few hours with more people on board. It was as if it were a ‘water taxi’ that came and went ‘like normal’. 

Modus operandi points to lenient Algerian border police 

In the course of the morning, more boats came in the same way. This reinforces suspicions that the Algerian police have no intention of stopping the departure of migrants by sea in boats. As was the case when the cooperation agreement between the two countries was still in force. Previously, Spain’s Interior Minister Grande-Marlaska always applauded Algeria’s migration management. 

Fewer migrants from Morocco to Spain 

However, the Spanish rapprochement with Rabat regarding the Sahara has strengthened security and border control by the Moroccan police. The force with which the agents repelled the latest and tragic attempt to attack the Melilla fence proves this. 

State security forces and bodies had known for months that the Algerian route – to Alicante, Almeria, Murcia, and the Balearic Islands – would be vigorously activated following Algeria’s suspension of the cooperation treaty with Spain. 

Focus shifts to more eastern migration route to Spain

Also, Guardia Civil border agents guarding the fences of Ceuta and Melilla have already warned that with the full normalisation of connections with Morocco, the focus of migration would shift from the two Spanish enclaves to the more eastern route. This already seems to be happening. 

There are not enough police officers to guard the coasts of Alicante, Murcia, Almería, and the Balearic Islands and to stop the flow of boats expected to arrive in these areas in the coming weeks. The fact that the population of these areas increases significantly due to the summer holiday period does not make things any easier. 

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