Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said on Wednesday that Spain has sent back to Morocco about 4,800 out of 8,000 migrants crossing its African enclave in Ceuta.
Over the course of two days, an unprecedented 8,000 people illegally crossed into the African enclave of Ceuta.
After Moroccan security forces appeared to relax border controls, a sense of calm has returned to the beaches of Ceuta, where a record influx of migrants washed ashore from Morocco beginning Monday.
The scene was a humanitarian and diplomatic crisis, resulting from Spain’s decision to treat Brahim Ghali, leader of the rebel Polisario Front, in a Spanish hospital for a severe case of COVID-19.
Moroccan forces began controlling the border and stopping groups of migrants traveling towards it by late Tuesday, following high-level bilateral meetings. Reinforcements from the Spanish military and police were also sent in to help control the situation.
Ghali has been summoned to appear before the Spanish High Court on June 1 to make a declaration following the decision to reopen a lawsuit against him for genocide and torture, according to local Spanish media.
Meanwhile, Spain is under fire from some human rights activists for the dubious legality of its decision to return the vast majority of migrants without due process.
Six major non-governmental organizations (NGOs) issued a statement on Tuesday claiming that the mass expulsions are illegal under international and Spanish law.
Previously, European Union courts backed Spain’s use of so-called “express deportations,” but only in cases where migrants were crossing border fences.
Many of those still in Spain are minors, who, according to the Interior Ministry, cannot be deported quickly. Spanish authorities have scrambled to establish a holding area in Ceuta, a small city of only 18.5 square kilometers.
Spain’s activities have been backed by the European Union, with European Council President Charles Michel tweeting: “Spain has our full support and solidarity… The EU’s boundaries are Spain’s borders.”
The six Spanish NGOs blamed Spain’s and the EU’s migratory policies for establishing the conditions for the Ceuta crisis.
“The policy of externalizing the borders to third countries doesn’t only fail to offer permanent solutions, it leads to people who are in migratory processes being used to exert political pressure,” they said in a joint statement.