Tuesday’s newspapers in Spain have been dominated by the arrival of 6,000 undocumented migrants who crossed from Morocco over to the Spanish territory of Ceuta on Monday and Tuesday, as hundreds more tried to reach Spain’s north African enclave.
They reached Ceuta by swimming or by walking at low tide from beaches a few kilometres to the south, some using inflatable swimming rings and rubber dinghies.
Speaking after the weekly cabinet meeting, Spain’s Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said Spain had already returned “2,700 people” who had entered the territory illegally, updating an earlier figure of 1,500.
The massive influx, which was a record number for a single day, had steadily made their way into Ceuta throughout the day on Monday, prompting a crisis in the tiny territory which is home to some 84,000 people.
A spokesman for the Spanish government delegation in Ceuta said the numbers arriving Monday were unprecedented.
The migrants had reached the enclave by swimming or walking at low tide from beaches in neighbouring Morocco, he added. None had been hospitalised and “they are doing well”, he said.
The unprecedented number of arrivals, which occurred at a time of tension in Madrid’s ties with Rabat, prompted Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to cancel a trip to Paris later on Tuesday where he was to attend an Africa financing summit, the government said.
Spain has put armoured vehicles on the beach in Ceuta. On the Moroccan side, thousands more wait to try to cross this morning.
— Matthew Bennett (@matthewbennett) May 18, 2021
Meanwhile, the local authorities in Melilla, Spain’s other north African enclave, said more than 300 migrants had tried to cross the barrier into the territory before dawn on Tuesday, with 86 of them succeeding.
Scenes from #Ceuta are surreal. Dozens are trying their luck in the sea, swimming around the fence. Later with low tide, those who can’t swim will have a chance to walk the distance pic.twitter.com/gIl3rI6OWr
— Bruno Boelpaep (@BrunoBoelpaep) May 18, 2021
The EU commissioner for home affairs, Ylva Johansson, on Tuesday urged Morocco to “prevent irregular departures” of migrants after some 6,000 entered Spain’s Ceuta enclave from the North African country.
Johansson, speaking to the European Parliament, called the ongoing migrant arrivals to Ceuta “worrying” and said: “The most important thing now is that Morocco continues to commit to prevent irregular departures, and that those that do not have the right to stay are orderly and effectively returned. Spanish borders are European borders.”
More than 80 migrants also crossed a high barrier from Morocco into Melilla Tuesday, local authorities said, as thousands of others entered into Spain’s other North African enclave of Ceuta.