Moroccan guards close Ceuta crossing following record influx of migrants

Fnideq, Morocco, May 19 (EFE).- Moroccan border guards on Wednesday sealed off the crossing into Ceuta following two days of an abrupt migrant crisis that saw over 8,000 people illegally enter the Spanish enclave.

Rabat has yet to officially comment on the events that began Monday, when an influx of predominantly Moroccan migrants managed to enter Ceuta by swimming or wading around the Spanish border fence or cutting through it having been granted a free pass through Moroccan border controls.

The atmosphere had changed by early Wednesday and Efe could confirm that many of the hundreds of people gathered at the coastal Tarajal border, in Ceuta’s south, had turned back towards the adjacent Moroccan town of Fnideq.

Moroccan police prevented others from approaching the area.

Spanish authorities have returned 4,800 of the migrants who breached the border between Monday and Tuesday, but at least 1,500 unaccompanied minors have been taken into provisional holding centers in Ceuta.

The unanticipated crisis prompted Spain to deploy troops and reinforce its 1,100-strong border force in Ceuta.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez flew to the territory on Tuesday and pledged his government would restore order.

The border crisis came amid a broader diplomatic spat between Madrid and Rabat over Spain’s decision to provide medical treatment to Brahim Ghali, the leader of the Polisario Front, a Western Saharan separatist group in conflict with Morocco.

As the dust settled on Wednesday, Spain’s foreign minister Arancha González Laya said Madrid did not want to “fuel” tensions with Rabat but defended the “humanitarian” treatment being offered to the Polisario leader.

“These are moments to keep a cool head,” she told Spanish national radio.EFE


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