The crisis in Ceuta is a European crisis

2 min
Dozens of people, having just swum to Ceuta's coast, waiting on the beach

The irregular entry of 6,000 people into Spain through the Ceuta border in the last 24 hours has provoked a serious diplomatic crisis between Spain and Morocco, with calls for consultations with their respective ambassadors. By Tuesday evening, Spain, which has mobilised the army and sent police reinforcements, had already returned to Morocco almost half the migrants, most of them young (and many of them minors) who took advantage of the passivity of the Moroccan police to swim across the border. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska have travelled to Ceuta to follow the crisis on the ground.

Morocco has traditionally used its control of the European Union's southern border to put pressure on Spain and other European partners, and has thus obtained important concessions and economic aid. In this particular case, everything suggests that Rabat's move is a reprisal for the fact that Spain has taken in the Polisario Front leader Brahim Ghali, a cancer patient infected with covid-19, who is receiving treatment in a hospital in Logroño. And Morocco considers that any gesture of aid to the Saharawi people is "unfriendly" and that whoever does so must abide by the consequences.

The fact is that this is a crisis of European scope, and the responsibility for managing migratory crises cannot fall solely on the countries that have a border with the south, even if it is maritime, as is the case of Spain, Italy or Greece. As long as the EU does not act in a united and united manner, with a common migration policy, countries like Morocco or Turkey will have the upper hand and will be able to extort money from European partners as they please. Young migrants are cannon fodder that Rabat uses for its geostrategic interests, just as Ankara does with Syrian refugees. It is also true that the pandemic has particularly affected the economic expectations of countries such as Morocco, where tourism is an important source of income, and that this is pushing many young people to emigrate.

Therefore, the first thing that Europe must do is, on the one hand, offer legal and safe routes for those who want to reach the continent, and, on the other hand, have a reception policy that is scrupulous about human rights. What we cannot have is for the whole of the European Union to be the victim of constant blackmail by the Moroccan regime. It is one thing to try to have good diplomatic and economic relations with a neighbouring country and strategic ally such as Morocco, and quite another to give in to its territorial aspirations and its attempt to crush the Saharawi resistance.

So far the European Union seems only concerned with border control and has given up on having this common migration and asylum policy. In fact, countries like Denmark are applying more and more restrictions on immigration. And it is this division that gives countries like Morocco a foothold and a strong negotiating position. And until this is put to an end, episodes like the one in Ceuta will be a constant.