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Morocco in the face of the need for European aid for its efforts to curb irregular migration

The Spanish President of the Government defended the Alawi kingdom's migration policies
Image of migrants near the border between Spain and Morocco

AP/BERNAT ARMANGUE  -   Image of migrants near the border between Spain and Morocco

The sad news of the death of 23 sub-Saharan migrants in the recent assault on the Melilla fence generated controversy and doubts about the land border situation between Morocco and Spain. There was criticism from various sectors and media, but the Moroccan and Spanish governments soon responded by stating that the incident was a violent assault on the Melilla fence, to which the security forces responded in order to protect the border, according to both governments. 

They then pointed to the underlying problem posed by the activity of human trafficking mafias, which are the real problem at certain border crossing hotspots in various parts of the world, as occurred in Melilla, or as also happened recently near the US-Mexico border in Texas, where 46 migrants died of asphyxiation in an abandoned truck due to the high temperatures in the area. This type of issue clearly points to the criminal work of migrant smuggling mafias, which obtain significant sums of money from desperate people who want to access countries that offer more possibilities than their own countries of origin and who risk their money and, above all, their lives by being taken by these criminal organisations along dangerous and unsafe routes in order to cross certain border areas. Immigration is an issue of concern in the US, for example, where last year a record number of undocumented migrants were apprehended crossing into the country from Mexico, many of them travelling through dangerous gateways.

REUTERS/JESÚS BLASCO DE AVELLANEDA - Migrantes africanos sentados en la cima de una valla fronteriza durante un intento de cruzar a territorios españoles, entre Marruecos y el enclave de Melilla
REUTERS/JESÚS BLASCO DE AVELLANEDA - African migrants sit on top of a border fence during an attempt to cross into Spanish territory, between Morocco and the enclave of Melilla

As for the latest event in Melilla, which left quite a few repercussions for being a massive assault on the fence that left a worrying agglomeration of people and fatal falls, the Moroccan Executive stated that the deaths were caused by the avalanche produced in the advance on the fence itself and both the Moroccan and Spanish governments defended the work carried out by the Moroccan Gendarmerie and the Spanish Police in defence of the Spanish-Moroccan borders.

Pedro Sánchez, the Spanish President of the Government of Spain, praised Morocco's migration work and referred to the assault as "an attack on Spain's borders" through the use of various weapons such as "axes and hooks", he told The Associated Press. "We are talking about an attempted assault on the fence that was evidently carried out in an aggressive manner, so what the Spanish state security forces and Moroccan guards did was to defend Spain's borders," Pedro Sánchez said. The Spanish leader also called for more support to be given to the North African country to curb the phenomenon of irregular immigration. "Morocco, as a transit country, suffers from the problem of illegal immigration, and we must help it to confront the human trafficking mafias and control migratory flows", Sánchez said in statements made to Cadena SER. "The tragedy of irregular migration is complex and we cannot look at it from a single point of view", said the President of the Spanish Government, who added that "the phenomenon must be analysed from a comprehensive and cross-cutting approach", pointing out that "Spain and the European Union are called upon to increase development aid to the countries of origin and transit that suffer from this phenomenon".

PHOTO/ Pool Moncloa / Borja Puig de la Bellacasa - El presidente del Gobierno, Pedro Sánchez, durante su comparecencia en La Moncloa
PHOTO/Pool Moncloa/Borja Puig de la Bellacasa - The President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, during his appearance in La Moncloa

This tragedy in Melilla once again highlighted the efforts that Morocco must make to curb irregular migration and tackle human trafficking mafias, a Herculean task for which various European and Moroccan politicians and members of parliament are calling for assistance and support.

Several political leaders called on their countries and the European Union as a whole to provide the necessary support to Rabat in the decisive role it is playing to curb irregular immigration, an issue that affects Spain as the main gateway for African migrants, especially sub-Saharan Africans, to Europe. These migrants are often victims of criminal organisations that traffic in human beings, in many cases risking their lives. 

REUTERS/JON NAZCA - Migrantes corren hacia la valla que separa Marruecos de España
REUTERS/JON NAZCA - Migrants run towards the fence separating Morocco from Spain

In this case, Czech MEP Tomasz Zdikovsky called for support for the efforts of the Alawi kingdom, stressing that "the massive arrival of 2,000 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa also suffers from migratory pressure". Zdikovsky had also described Spain's new position on the Moroccan Sahara as a 'historic step', demonstrating the current of support in Europe for the latest diplomatic rapprochements with Morocco promoted by Spain, which is a major endorsement of Morocco's proposal for broad autonomy for Western Sahara under Moroccan sovereignty as a more realistic and credible option for resolving the Sahrawi conflict. From various European political spheres, Morocco is considered a reliable partner of the EU in migratory matters and in other important areas such as the fight against terrorism and jihadism. All this demonstrates the strong political ties that bind the Kingdom to various European countries. 

Also, from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe in the European Parliament, Bulgarian MEP Ilhan Kyuchyuk called on the EU to support Morocco's "humane immigration policy in Africa". "We must support Morocco as an important and reliable strategic partner for Europe in the field of the fight against smuggling and mafias and the control of illegal immigration," Kyuchyuk said on the social networking site Twitter.

For his part, Lahcen Haddad, president of the Joint Parliamentary Committee between Morocco and the European Union, said that "the Kingdom is using its own resources to protect its borders and cooperate with Europe and Africa to better manage migration flows". Haddad stressed in a letter to the Committee's counterparts in the European Parliament that "Morocco spends 500 million euros annually to combat irregular migration to Europe, while EU aid to Morocco in this regard does not exceed a total of 270 million euros for a total period of 15 years, i.e. an average of no more than 15 million euros per year", further pointing out that the fight against irregular migration requires real resources and collaboration, as reported by Al-Arab media.

At the moment, Morocco uses its own resources to monitor 3,500 kilometres of maritime borders and 3,400 kilometres of land borders, which is a "huge challenge", according to Haddad. A difficult task that surely requires more support from the EU.