By Eleni Vasiliki Bampaliouta
Shocked by the violent armed wave of illegal immigration, manifested as an attempt to cross the zone connecting Morocco to the European Union by more than 2,000 African illegal immigrants, the governments of Morocco and Spain, in the framework of their permanent cooperation, tried in vain to prevent this desperate movement of forcible crossing, despite the security measures employed to put an end to this risky adventure.
According to the Moroccan and Spanish press, the said attempt led the crowd of attackers to crowd and trample, resulting in more than twenty dead from suffocation and other violence as well as several dozen wounded, including Moroccan and Spanish public order forces ( almost 200 injured, many of them in serious condition).
This planned and quasi-military attack, marked by extensive use of sharp weapons and firearms against Moroccan and Spanish security forces, resulted in the deaths of many illegal immigrants from suffocation or falling over the railings as they attempted to climb the border fence.
The Moroccan judiciary took charge of the case and decided to prosecute 65 migrants in Nador (northern Morocco), the Moroccan city bordering Melilla, for “illegal entry into Moroccan territory”, “violence against public order bodies”, “armed concentration’ and ‘refusal to comply’. A second group will also be tried for participating in a criminal gang for the purpose of organizing and facilitating illegal immigration abroad.
The new and interesting phenomenon is that the majority of the accused come from East Africa, which clearly shows that this is a large operation to infiltrate Morocco, which was deliberately organized. European Union, and especially in this momentum where the two neighbouring countries (Spain-Morocco) further strengthen their multidimensional cooperation, which is also to the benefit of the European Union.
In this context, the Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, did not hesitate to welcome the cooperation of the Moroccan authorities, who worked closely and in coordination with the Spanish security forces “to prevent this very violent attack, which we witnessed… Responsible for everything that happened at the border, it’s the mafia networks that engage in human trafficking,” he said.
During the first quarter of 2022 alone, 14,746 internal and external illegal migration attempts were prevented through various routes, by land or sea, from Morocco to Spain. Also, as part of this effort, Morocco dismantled 52 criminal trafficking and human trafficking networks during the same period. Since 2016, more than 145 attacks on the outskirts of Ceuta and Melilla have been repelled (50 in 2021 and 12 by May 2022). Regarding the provision of maritime assistance, 97 people were rescued during the same period.
In 2021, Morocco managed to prevent 63,121 illegal migration attempts to Europe and dismantle 256 migrant smuggling networks. It also carried out 14,236 rescues of migrants at sea and carried out the voluntary return of 3,500 migrants to their country of origin, of which 2,300 in cooperation with the International Organization for Migration. From an economic point of view, while the aid provided by the European Union to Morocco to deal with illegal immigration to Europe does not exceed 15 million euros per year, Morocco spends 500 million euros annually for this purpose and therefore it becomes necessary to re-evaluation of the partnership and Euro-Moroccan neighbourhood policy on the matter.
The Spanish Foreign Minister spoke of “improving and strengthening cooperation with Morocco… The participation of Europe and the European Commission is imperative”.
The African Ambassadors accredited to Morocco unanimously welcomed the commendable efforts of the Kingdom of Morocco on the issue of migrant management in general and during this crisis in particular, warning against the risk of instrumentalizing the issue in order to tarnish the image of the Kingdom of Morocco, a one of the most important factors of South-South cooperation.
We do not need to be reminded that the responsibility of this human drama lies with mafia networks operating internationally, as well as traffickers of human lives who exploit the misery of migrants, cynically turning them into a profitable commercial product of commercial, human, economic and political transaction.