Society 19/05/2021

Ceuta tries to regain calm

Children and families sleep outdoors due to the lack of services, totally overwhelmed by the arrival of thousands of people to the autonomous city

2 min
Un submarinista de la Guàrdia Civil rescatant un nadó del mar

BarcelonaTense calm in Ceuta. The city wakes up with hundreds of people who have slept in the streets, attended by NGOs and the solidarity of the neighbours. After two days of arrival of 8,000 migrants -among them, many families with very young children-, the border is closed again and the Moroccan guards have resumed the controls they had stopped doing, which has triggered the most serious humanitarian and diplomatic crisis between the two countries in recent decades.

Despite this, witnesses on the ground claim that the Moroccan police turn a blind eye to some of the boats that try to reach the breakwater of the Spanish autonomous city. Those on board jump into the water when they are close to the coast and finish the journey swimming, and when they reach the beach they are exhausted by the effort and are helped by volunteers from organisations such as the Red Cross. While some arrive, on the other hand, others take the way out and leave the territory of Ceuta to return home.

On the other side of the fence, thousands of people, especially young men, are waiting for the chance to cross the border, since they were not lucky enough to be able to do so when the Moroccan police looked the other way, on the umpteenth occasion on which the Alawite government uses immigration to defy Spain and the European Union and show its anger. On this occasion, Rabat has opened the migratory tap in protest at the reception of the head of the Polisario Front in a Logroño hospital to be treated for coronavirus.

Red Cross volunteers trying to warm up one of the young people who swam into Ceuta.

The pandemic, which Morocco tried to combat by closing its borders, has aggravated the country's structural economic crisis and left millions of young people with little choice but to migrate and join relatives already living in France or Spain. Among those who have arrived in Ceuta in the last few hours, many were desperately looking for a way to contact siblings or friends.

Social services and NGOs helping migrants are overwhelmed in the city, and there are not enough places to take care of the new arrivals, not even for the 1,500 minors who have arrived recently. Although the Spanish government has assured that there are no minors among the 4,000 who were sent back to Morocco, videos have been posted on social networks showing police officers expelling children without any intervention, a fact that violates all international treaties for the protection of children. The Spanish system guarantees that minors must be identified and listened to in order to know what their personal circumstances are before being returned to a guardian in their country of origin.

A young Moroccan boy trying to reach the coast swimming in the dark.

According to what police sources have informed to Efe, the minors who have entered the city have been taken to the industrial warehouses of the Tarajal, where the government of Ceuta has enabled this space for them to pass the compulsory covid lockdown, but other sources describe that a large number have spent the night on the streets or in occupied premises and without hygienic guarantees.

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