Spain has deployed troops after a record number of around 8,000 migrants, including about 1,500 minors, from Morocco reached the North African enclave of Ceuta in two days.
According to Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska, 200 troops and an additional 200 police officers have been sent to assist the 1,100-strong border force in Ceuta in handling the influx of migrants.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on May 18 vowed to secure the borders of Ceuta, as well as the nearby Melilla enclave, and said he would visit the enclaves.
“We are going to restore order to the city and its borders,” Sanchez said in a televised statement.
Sanchez also said that anyone who had irregularly entered the enclaves would be “immediately returned.”
European Union Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson described the arrival of the migrants as “unprecedented” and “worrying.”
“The most important thing now is that Morocco continues to commit to prevent irregular departures and that those that do not have the right to stay are orderly and effectively returned,” Johansson stated on Twitter.
“Spanish borders are European borders,” Johansson added.
Around 3,800 migrants have already been returned to Morocco, excluding unaccompanied minors who are allowed to legally remain in Spain under the supervision of the government and were being sent to an industrial building
Spanish officials said that the migrants entered the enclave by swimming around the border fences or by walking across the low tide.
Some of the migrants may had also used inflatable rings or rubber dinghies, officials said.
At least one young man died while trying to reach Ceuta, according to officials.
The arrival of the migrants come amid diplomatic tensions between Spain and Morocco due to Spain’s decision to provide medical treatment to Western Sahara independence leader Brahim Ghali.
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