Moroccan authorities succeeded in slowing the rate of illegal migration to Spain in recent months after a crackdown on smuggling networks, the country’s migration and border control chief said.
So far 7,202 people successfully reached Spain from Morocco this year, around 2,000 more than in the same period last year. More than half this year’s crossings were in January, with numbers declining sharply over the next three months.
Border control chief Khalid Zerouali told Reuters this showed government efforts were working.
He said authorities prevented 25,000 illegal crossings so far this year, up 30% compared to the same period last year. So far this year there has been no storming of border fences in the Spanish North African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla.
“Measures taken by Morocco stemmed the migration flow to Spain,” Zerouali said.
The route between Morocco and Spain has become one of the main illegal entry routes into Europe for migrants as pressure has closes other routes from Turkey to Greece and Libya to Italy.
Last year some 57,000 people arrived illegally in Spain. Morocco said it stopped 89,000 migrants last year.
The vast majority of illegal Mediterranean crossings are attempted during summer which has yet to begin, so the smaller figures for the first few months of the year are difficult to compare.
Zerouali denied reports of an agreement signed with Spain for Morocco to readmit migrants rescued at sea.
Morocco dismantled 50 migrant trafficking networks operating at local and international levels so far this year, up 63% compared with a year earlier, he said. Authorities also helped combat traffickers by imposing controls on import and sale of navigation equipment, he added.
The EU promised 140 million euros in border management aid to help Morocco curb migration flows. Some 30 million euros was disbursed earlier this year.
Zerouali said half the aid would be budget support and half donated equipment.