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Spain says Morocco’s use of minors to breach border ‘unacceptable’


[FILES] A group of Moroccan people wearing protective masks talk after being blocked in the city of Algeciras with other 250 Moroccan nationals residing in countries such as France and Italy, due to the lockdown measures taken to fight against the coronavirus spread that do not allow them to continue their journey by sea to Morocco, on March 15, 2020. – Morocco suspended air and sea links with France and Spain on March 13, 2020 as well as closing land borders with two Spanish North African enclaves to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Spain and France are among the worst-hit countries in Europe although Italy, which imposed Europe’s most draconian lockdown on its 60 million citizens last week, still dominates in terms of infections from COVID-19. (Photo by Marcos Moreno / AFP)

Spanish Defence Minister Margarita Robles on Saturday denounced as “unacceptable” Morocco’s use of young people to violate Spain’s borders following a record influx of arrivals early last week. 

“One thing is clear: when minors are used as an instrument to breach Spain’s territorial borders, this is unacceptable,” she told RTVE public television at a ceremony to mark armed forces day.


Spain and Morocco have been locked in a diplomatic spat over Western Sahara, which set off a chain of events that last week saw up to 10,000 mainly young people cross into the Spanish North African enclave of Ceuta as Moroccan guards looked the other way.

The arrivals overwhelmed the tiny enclave and although most have been sent back, there are still more than 800 mostly Moroccan minors in Ceuta, where the authorities are working around the clock to track down their parents. 

The incident has sparked a war of words between Madrid and Rabat, with Robles last week accusing Morocco of “aggression” and “blackmail”. 


“It’s unacceptable from any point of view, whether you’re talking international law or humanitarian law,” she said on Saturday. 

“No country acting in a spirit of good neighbourliness could use minors in that way.”

Spain, she said, had always been “one of Morocco’s main supporters, but we demand respect from Morocco… because that is key to coexistence.”

Madrid said 1,500 of the arrivals were minors while Amnesty International gave a figure of 2,000. Ceuta has accused Rabat of using “manipulative tricks” to encourage youngsters to cross to put pressure on Spain over Western Sahara. 


The influx was made possible because Moroccan border forces deliberately looked the other way in what was widely understood as a punitive gesture after Spain offered hospital treatment to the leader of Western Sahara’s independence movement. 

Spain’s two tiny enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla have Europe’s only land border with Africa, making them a magnet for migrants desperate to escape grinding poverty and hunger. 

The huge influx of people had triggered fears of an upsurge in Covid-19 infection, but by Friday, that number stood at just 39 imported cases, health ministry figures showed. 


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