The Spanish Minister of the Interior, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, arrived in Morocco this Friday on what is his seventh official trip to Morocco since he took office in 2018, and will meet with his counterpart, Abdelouafi Laftit.
His objective, explained from the Interior, is to continue strengthening the collaboration between the two countries and tackle the migration crisis, in an attempt to agree with Rabat on other mechanisms for the repatriation of its nationals and to study how to strengthen Moroccan control of the Atlantic coasts.
The President of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez, will travel to Rabat on 17 December where he will co-chair with his Moroccan counterpart, Saâd Eddine El Othmani, a "high-level meeting between Morocco and Spain".
"This meeting will be held in person with the participation of members of the governments of the two countries," a press release said. "If the pandemic has slowed the pace of trade, the two governments have decided to give a new boost to their good political and economic relations".
The migratory crisis that pressurizes the Canary Islands, together with the Saharawi conflict in which the second vice-president, Pablo Iglesias, in accordance with the traditional position of Podemos and which is endorsed by the United Nations, bets in favor of a referendum of self-determination, something that could make the dialogue with the southern neighbor difficult, according to the media El Independiente, the Moroccan executive has made known its discontent with the position of Sánchez's partner in the already eternal conflict in the Sahara.
This visit comes at the height of the migratory crisis in the Canary Islands, where 18,000 irregular arrivals of emigrants have been recorded this year and it is estimated that half of them are Moroccan, though the Spanish government has not provided details of the nationalities of the arrivals.
Between 1 January and 15 November they arrived on the islands illegally, 1,019 percent more than in the same period in 2019, according to the latest balance sheet of the Interior Ministry. More than two thousand immigrants have been crammed into the Arguineguin fishing dock (Gran Canaria) in recent days, where an emergency provisional camp was set up in August for 400 immigrants who are waiting for a solution from the authorities.
The strict confinement measures decreed in Morocco against the coronavirus between April and June led to a drastic reduction in the number of boats leaving for Spain, but when the restrictions were lifted, starting in the summer, the number of boats leaving for the Mediterranean coast shot up again.
The double crisis of drought and pandemic has dealt a severe blow to the informal economy, where this population generally finds employment, and now a good percentage of them have had to risk their lives in a patera to reach the coasts of the Mediterranean. The Moroccan government estimates that the unemployment rate could rise by four percentage points this year to reach 13 percent of the population, with a particular impact on young people aged between 15 and 30, who traditionally account for two-thirds of the total unemployed.
With Mauritania, another country of departure on the "Canary Islands route", Spain has a mechanism for repatriation flights. When an irregular emigrant is considered to have arrived in the Canary Islands from the Mauritanian coast, the Maghreb country agrees to receive them back on repatriation flights.
Using this mechanism, four planes left for Mauritania from Canary Islands airports before the pandemic struck (with 162 emigrants on board) and a fifth last month. Immediately after landing, they were all expelled from Mauritania to Senegal and Mali, the main points of origin, according to Efe.
However,with Morocco, repatriations are more difficult and, above all, more inconstant. Rabat also practices repatriations with various sub-Saharan countries: between September and November at least six planes left Moroccan airports for Senegal, Mali and Guinea Conakri, the biggest countries of origin of irregular emigration.
According to Efe, these flights are generally agreed with the migrants' countries of origin, as insisted on by Moroccan diplomatic sources, who describe them as "humanitarian repatriations", although they are not carried out in coordination with the UN agencies present in the African country.
Meanwhile, the government admits that "the situation is tremendous" in the Canary Islands. And that all its forecasts have been "overwhelmed" by the new waves of boats.
Grande-Marlaska stresses the "solid and stable" relations in statements to the Moroccan agency MAP, before his trip to Rabat to meet his counterpart, the Moroccan minister of the interior, Abdelouafi Laftit.Â "Spain is aware that it shares a strong migratory pressure with Morocco and is committed to continuing to strengthen collaboration and mutual support in this field", he said in this interview, stressing that the neighbouring country is "a strategic partner for Spain".
In this context, the Spanish minister indicated that "Spain is aware that it shares with Morocco a strong migratory pressure and is committed to continue strengthening collaboration and mutual support in this area", he said in this interview in which he stressed that the neighbouring country is "a strategic partner for Spain".
According to Grande-Marlaska, this cooperation between the security services is based on "mutual trust and solid and stable relations", both in the fight against terrorism and also with regard to migratory flows. "This cooperation is particularly relevant with regard to the Atlantic coast route and the arrivals of irregular immigrants in the Canary Islands," he points out.
"The Spanish government and the Ministry of the Interior assess the current state of cooperation and collaboration with the Moroccan authorities, in particular with the Ministry of the Interior, very positively", emphasises Grande-Marlaska.
Furthermore, Grande-Marlaska stressed that Spain defends within the European Union the "need to give priority to the external dimension in the common migration policy and to strengthen cooperation with countries of origin and transit".