Despite the repression, nothing stops the migrants in their perilous attempts to reach Spain. Between July 9 and July 12, 2022, the Moroccan Navy intercepted 257 people, mostly Africans, who made the crossing “aboard makeshift boats, kayaks and even swimming”according to a military source quoted by the Moroccan news agency MAP.
“Royal Navy Coastguards, on maritime patrol in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, (their) helped”, said the same source. Women, men and children have been sent “safe and sound” ashore after receiving the necessary treatment, the military source added.
These rescue operations come two weeks after the attempted forced passage of nearly 2,000 migrants in the Spanish enclave of Melilla (northern Morocco). An attempt harshly repressed by the Moroccan police. This tragedy killed 23 illegal immigrants, mostly of Sudanese origin, according to the Moroccan authorities, at least 37, according to some NGOs. This human toll is the heaviest recorded to date at the borders between Morocco and the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, the only borders of the European Union on the African continent.
According to the National Human Rights Council (CNDH), the official Moroccan body which investigated the scene of the tragedy, these African migrants perished “mechanical asphyxia”. As for “excessive use” violence by Moroccan security forces, denounced by the UN, the African Union (AU) and human rights NGOs, the CNDH assured that the Moroccan repression followed “to the danger of the large number of migrants armed with sticks and stones”.
Spain has recently moved closer to Moroccan positions on Western Sahara, to obtain in exchange greater Moroccan surveillance of migration to its coasts. For Madrid, the main purpose of restoring relations with Rabat is to ensure its “cooperation” in the control of illegal immigration while Morocco, from where the vast majority of migrants leave for Spain, has been regularly accused to use them as means of pressure by many observers.
In 2021, more than 40,000 people, mostly from the Cherifian kingdom, arrived in the country illegally by sea, according to the Spanish Interior Ministry. In the first five months of 2022, arrivals increased by 12% compared to 2021. However, the recent normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries with led to a decline in recent weeks.