Ceuta, Spain — Spanish officials expelled large numbers of migrants from Ceuta’s enlave in North Africa on Wednesday after thousands of people had crossed from Morocco as the tide of humanity swimming around the border fence turned into a trickle.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said 4,800 of the more than 8,000 people who entered Ceuta in the last two days have been sent back and security forces in both countries have intervened to prevent further crossings.
“We have an immediate delivery of those who have invaded irregularly,” Sanchez told Congress.
On Wednesday morning, combat-equipped Spanish soldiers and police officers brought some swimmers directly back to Morocco, and Moroccan police expelled hundreds of young people from the border fence.
Spanish excursion leaders have previously accused Moroccan authorities of not actively guarding the border side, to treat rebel leaders from Western Sahara, a Moroccan-controlled territory. Associated with Madrid’s decision to be admitted to a Spanish hospital.
On Wednesday, Moroccan Minister of Human Rights El Mustafa Ramid suggested that Rabat had the right to ease border control over the hospitalization of Polisario leader Brahim Ghali.
“What did Spain expect from Morocco to see its neighbors hosting the heads of armed groups against the kingdom?” He said in a Facebook post.
“Morocco has the right to lean forward and stretch out … so Spain knows that underestimating Morocco can be costly,” he added.
Sanchez did not establish that relationship, calling the country of North Africa a friend of Spain, and the Interior Ministry praised Morocco’s cooperation in re-entry of immigrants.
Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Raya said in a radio interview Wednesday morning that Spain has always been “very cautious” about Western Sahara.
She said Spain did not intend to make Gari’s hospitalization an “aggressive character.”
Rabat recalled the ambassador to Madrid for talks, adding that unnamed diplomatic sources needed a moment of “contemplation” in relation to Spain. Moroccan authorities did not respond to requests for comment.
The crisis between the two countries has been the most serious since the territorial dispute over Peregil Island in 2002.
John Nasca and Mariano Valladolid