Gov’t says migrant expulsions put traffickers on notice

Spanish Interior Min. Grande-Marlaska (L) appearing before Congress on 29th August. Photo: Reuters via Diario Jaén

Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska told Spain’s Congress this week that the summary deportation of 116 migrants who stormed the perimeter fence of the country’s North Africa enclave of Ceuta last week was meant to send a signal human-trafficking mafias operating in North Africa. The message, the minister said, is that Spain will not tolerate illegal migration and the use of violence by migrants who are being transported in growing numbers by traffickers through Morocco in an effort to reach Europe via Spanish territory.

Non-governmental organizations that defend migrant rights and work on refugee resettlement in Spain condemned the “express” expulsion of 116 migrants from sub-Sahara Africa who vaulted the chain-link perimeter fence en masse en Ceuta. But, speaking before congressional deputies Wednesday, Grande-Marlaska defended the deportation back across the border into Morocco as a clear message to human trafficking mafias believed to organize such assaults “that orderly, safe and legal immigration is possible and desirable, but not illegal and violent (immigration)”.

The deportations were carried out under a 26-year old accord between Spain and Morocco that Spain sought to reactivate after more than 600 migrants violently assaulted the Ceuta perimeter fence in late-July. In that assault, the migrants hurled stones and quick lime at border guards that resulted in more than two dozen injuries. (Spanish authorities have since arrested the suspected ringleaders of the July incident and placed them in preventive custody pending trial.)

Grande-Marlaska’s comments came amid a renewed immigration crisis within Europe, as Spain attempts to align itself with France and Germany in favor of the orderly flow of migrants arriving by boat across the Mediterranean in the face of efforts by Italy and Hungary to generate a coalition of European countries demanding a complete shutdown of European ports and borders to immigration.

The Spanish Interior Minister’s remarks also came on the same day as an agreement between the government and refugee rescue group Proactiva Open Arms, under which the Barcelona-based NGO will redirect its efforts to rescue boatloads of refugees stranded in the eastern Mediterranean in favor of collaborating with the government’s Salvamento Marítimo coast guard rescue efforts off Spain’s southern coast. In recent months, the flow of migrants and refugees across the Mediterranean to south Europe has shifted as human trafficking rings have reportedly begun abandoning the increasingly difficult route via Libya in favor of a more westerly route via Morocco to Spain.

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