MOROCCAN police are tracking down more than 100 illegal immigrants who fled Spain on small dinghies at the end of March.
Moroccan daily Al Ahdath Maghrebia reported the returnees – who had been illegally residing in Spain – disembarked south of Tangier during turbulent seas before disappearing to avoid the authorities.
It comes as Spain’s southern neighbour is the third-worst hit African nation, with 2,855 contagions and strict quarantine rules.
The immigrants reportedly paid up to €5,400 for the perilous journey. In normal times, the journey costs between €400 – €1,000, report El Pais.
After learning of the incident, Moroccan police began house-to-house searches to locate and quarantine the returnees over fears they spread the novel coronavirus.
At least one man was found hiding in a clay oven.
It comes as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins today, and hundreds of Moroccan nationals have been trapped in the Spanish enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta.
Many cross-border daily workers were trapped in the wrong country when Morocco unilaterally closed its borders on March 13 – a day before Spain’s state of alarm announcement – and refused entrance to trapped nationals.
In Ceuta there are understood to be 300 trapped Moroccans, according to local paper El Faro de Ceuta. On March 22, four young men were arrested afer swimming from Ceuta’s El Tarajal beach to Morocco.
The issue is perturbing Morocco’s politics to the point that MP Rita Hatimi questioned parliament:
“The outbreak of the virus in Spain led Moroccan citizens to carry out an illegal counter-migration via deadly little boats, or to infiltrate international freight trucks from Europe to Morocco, after finding themselves in a difficult situation due to the pandemic and the lack of job opportunities. We ask you about the precautionary measures and the measures taken to quarantine them to avoid the transmission and spread of the infection.”
Algerian immigrants have also been reported returning home on boats from both Italy and Spain. At least 12 immigrants on three separate boats were arrested after arriving to the east of Oran, report Algerie 360°.
Despite being one of the worst-hit countries in the world, Spain has still seen arrivals of illegal immigrants on its shores during the coronavirus pandemic.
Between March 15 – April 15, a total of 829 people are known to have arrived in Spain by land or sea, according to the Ministry of the Interior.
On the whole, illegal immigration is down 24% compared with the same period in 2019.