Morocco, Spain to co-operate on illegal migration


Morocco and Spain pledged to co-operate more closely to curb illegal migration, an issue fuelling the growth of far right and populist politics in Europe, following a near halving of migrant arrivals in mainland Spain this year.

The countries will work to counter illegal migration networks, terrorism and organised crime, Spanish Interior minister Grande-Marlaska Gómez told reporters after talks with Moroccan counterpart Abdelouafi Laftit.

Recent years saw thousands of migrants attempting the journey to Europe from North Africa, with many deaths at sea.

Tougher enforcement brought numbers down, but attitudes to migrants have become one of the main fault-lines in European politics, driving the rise of parties wanting tougher policies.

Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on Morocco’s northern coast are a magnet for Africans trying to reach Europe. The enclaves are surrounded by a six-metre-high fence topped with razor wire.

Grande Marlaska said Spain would remove razors from the fence while increasing its height to curb crossings.

There has been a 45% drop in migrant arrivals in mainland Spain so far this year, Grande-Marlaska Gómez said adding Spain’s Canary Islands had seen a 23% rise in arrivals.

Spain will co-operate with West African states such as Senegal and Mauritania to curb flows, he added.

Figures released by the International Organisation for Migration show 14 969 people arrived in Spain by sea from January 1 to August 28 this year, compared to 28 579 the same period last year.

Moroccan authorities stopped 57 000 migrants from illegally crossing to Spain so far in 2019, government spokesman Mustapha El Khalfi said.

More than 150 migrants stormed into Ceuta on August 30, the largest breach of the fence in a year.

The Spanish government last month approved 32.2 million euros in aid to Morocco to counter illegal migration. The European Union promised 140 million euros in border management aid to help Morocco curb migration flows.