A surge in the number of illegal immigrants in Spain has prompted Fernando Grande-Marlaska, Spain’s interior minister, to make an official visit to Morocco to meet his counterpart, Abdelouafi Laftit. This marks his seventh visit to Morrocco since assuming office in June 2018.
The visit comes after Spain’s Constitutional Court upheld the country’s 2015 security law, which permits immediate deportations of migrants trying to cross from Morocco into the Spanish regions of Ceuta and Melilla. Spain took this stand in an announcement on Thursday, November 19. However, human rights activists have criticized the move.
The Minister’s remarks to journalists
“We have specified different measures that we have to adopt in matters, mainly in, the fight against irregular immigration and the fight against criminal organizations. We have clearly set out complementary measures that we have to adapt to guarantee security and fight against irregular immigration as we have done in the field of terrorism and guarantee, I repeat, the security of all our citizens,” the Spanish Interior Minister told journalists.
1,000% increase in the number of migrants
Official data from the Spanish public broadcaster, RTVE, indicate an increase of more than 1,000% in the number of migrants in the same period last year. So far this year, 16,700 migrants have reached the Canary Islands. The data further shows that more than half of this year’s arrival took place over the last month.
Other figures from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) show that a total of 1,441 migrants have crossed into Spain by land this year, as of November 15, 2020. Out of this, 805 migrant arrivals have been recorded in Ceuta and 1,300 on Melilla.
Number of Moroccan Immigrants
More than 15,000 Moroccan immigrants have arrived on the Canaries so far this year. This according to a report by Asharq Al-Aswat. The report further states that the figure is four times as many as in the last two years combined.
A look at the Spanish-Moroccan border
The Spanish-Moroccan border consists of three adjacent lines totaling 18.5km. The distance is around the Spanish territories of Ceuta (8km), Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera (75meters), and Melilla (10.5km). These three, including other Islands off the Moroccan coast, form part of Spain’s plazas de soberanía. Melilla and Ceuta borders are the only two land borders between an African Country and the European Union.
The two countries also share a maritime border along with the Strait Gibraltar and the Alboran Sea, and in the Canary Islands.
The Spanish policy of immediate deportation was backed up by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in February 2020. The ruling was a reversal of an earlier ruling in 2017 which had ordered Spain to pay €5,000 to two Sub-Saharan Africans “for violating their rights,” according to El Paìs English.
El Paìs reported that Spain made an appeal to the ruling, stating that the two men were in violation of the laws by crossing at an “unauthorized location and taking advantage of the group’s large numbers and using force.”