‘It was an attack on our borders, not a migratory crisis’: Spain says 6,500 migrants returned to Morocco

Spain’s interior minister has reported that 6,500 adults of the more than 8,000 people who crossed Ceuta’s border this week have already been returned, describing the movement of migrants as an “attack” on the country’s borders.

Speaking on Friday, Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska told Radio COPE that the situation on Spain’s border with Morocco had normalized, adding that he hoped the diplomatic spat with Rabat “will be as short as possible.” 

He said that more than 6,500 migrants out of the approximately 8,000 who ran and swam into Spain's North African enclave of Ceuta earlier this week had been returned to Morocco.

Grande-Marlaska described the flood of people crossing into Spanish territory as “an attack on our borders, not a migratory crisis," citing Morocco’s role in ushering migrants towards Ceuta. 

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Migrants run towards the fence separating Morocco from Spain, after thousands of migrants swam across the border, in Ceuta, Spain, May 19, 2021. © REUTERS/Jon Nazca
Spain knows that ‘underestimating Morocco is costly’: Moroccan minister links migrant crossings with Madrid treating Rabat’s foe

In a Facebook post late on Tuesday night, Morocco’s Minister of State for Human Rights El Mustapha Ramid warned Madrid not to underestimate Rabat, suggesting that Morocco had allowed migrants to move towards Spain in retaliation for Madrid’s assent in allowing medical care for a Western Sahara independence leader who is ill.

“What did Spain expect from Morocco, which sees its neighbor hosting the head of a group that took up arms against the kingdom?” he wrote. Brahim Ghali, who heads up Polisario, a Western Sahara independence group, was admitted by Madrid in April to be treated for Covid-19. 

Grande-Marlaska hit back on Friday, noting: “It is inconceivable that a humanitarian gesture triggers a situation like the crisis in Ceuta.” 

Spanish officials accused Moroccan authorities on Tuesday of being passive to a wave of migrants running and swimming towards the Spanish border at Ceuta. Some said Moroccan border guards actually ushered migrants through the gate.

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