EUROPE is facing an unprecedented crisis following a surge in immigration from Morocco, Pedro Sánchez warned. 

Speaking in Brussels during an EU summit yesterday, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said the decisions made during the meeting of the European Council could seal the EU’s fate.

The talks come after some 8,000 people, including around 1,500 minors, risked their lives swimming or wading around the border fence to enter the Spanish enclave of Ceuta from Morocco last week. 

One man drowned in the process  and Spain’s interior ministry has since confirmed that 7,500 people had returned to Morocco while ‘around 1,000’ minors remained in Ceuta.

PM Sánchez said the crisis had ‘triggered a crisis unprecedented in recent years between the European Union and Morocco’. 

He added: “The relationship between the EU and Morocco, between Spain and Morocco, is a strategic one… but it must be based on two fundamental pillars.

“The first is trust and the second is respect, in this case, respect for Europe’s borders, for Spain’s borders in Ceuta and Melilla.

“We must always remind Morocco that it has no better or greater ally within the EU than Spain to defend the strategic interests that are so important for Morocco.” 

Spain prime minister Pedro Sanchez
Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sanchez

The migrants swam a short distance through rocky breakwaters from two locations, with some entering southern Ceuta at Tarajal beach, and a larger group entering the north of the city at Benzu beach in a bid to flee Morocco and enter the European Union. 

The two tiny enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla have Europe’s only land border with Africa and Spain has seen an increase in migrants arriving on its shores in recent months.

Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, said: “more than 1,000 irregular migrants reached the Canary Islands in April, three times the total from the same month of last year.

“In the January-April period, nearly 4,500 irregular migrants arrived on the Canary Islands, more than double the total from the same period of 2020. Nationals from sub-Saharan countries, most claiming to be from Mali and Morocco, accounted for the largest number of arrivals.”

Some suggest the surge was a direct result of  Spain allowing the head of the Polisario Front – a group seeking independence from Morocco in the disputed Western Sahara – to enter the country for medical treatment in April.

The decision to take in the Polisario Front leader, Brahim Ghali, was ‘reckless, irresponsible and totally unacceptable’, Mustapha Ramid, Morocco’s minister in charge of human rights, said in a recent Facebook post. He said “What was Spain expecting from Morocco when it hosted an official from a group that is carrying arms against the kingdom?”

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