Spain wants to promote the return of illegal migrants to Morocco

by Lorraine Williamson
illegal migrants return to Morocco

Bilateral relations between Spain and Morocco are entering a new phase. And that means promoting the return of migrants who have arrived illegally in the Canary Islands.  

For this purpose, in addition to the existing route to El Aaiún, two new routes from the islands to Casablanca and Agadir will be opened, government sources tell Spanish news site Europa Press.

Significant increase in return of illegal migrants

 The Spanish government expects a ‘significant increase’ in the number of illegal migrants to return to Morocco. Furthermore, this would even be an increase compared to the numbers before the Covid-19 pandemic.   According to the sources, the route from the Canary Islands to El Aaiún – a city in Western Sahara – allows for the return of around 80 migrants a week. The migratory pressure on Spain had increased during the pandemic. It had also increased due to the diplomatic crisis between the two countries. However, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez ended that during his visit to Rabat on Thursday.   According to data from the Spanish police, by 2021;

  • 40% of illegal immigrants reached Spanish shores from Morocco
  • 30% came from Algeria
  • 30% from sub-Saharan countries.   

New phase 

 The “new phase” was sealed after a letter from Pedro Sánchez was released by Morocco on 18 March. In the letter, the head of the Spanish executive supported the Alawite kingdom’s proposal on Western Sahara as the most “serious, credible and realistic plan. Furthermore, sources point out that negotiations on two new routes for flights with returning migrants had already been conducted by the Ministry of the Interior prior to this letter. However, they are now expected to be opened.   

Protest from Algeria  

The restoration of full diplomatic relations with Morocco has led to protests from Algeria. Moreover, Algeria plays a key role in gas supply and also in controlling migratory pressures. Algeria’s first measure was to withdraw its ambassador to Spain because of the turnaround on the Sahara. The sources consulted point out that until now, the return of nationals to this North African country was mainly via ferries from Almería.   Decrease in March The illegal entry of migrants into Spain decreased by 55.4% in March compared to February and by 66.9% compared to January, according to data from the Ministry of the Interior. In January, 4,202 migrants entered, compared to 3,117 a month later and 1,388 in March. 

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