Spain Sends Troops to North Africa Enclave to Deter Migrants

Spain is sending troops and more police to one of its North African enclaves after a record number of mostly Moroccan migrants entered the territory.

Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said Tuesday that police numbers in Ceuta, a tiny peninsula across the Strait of Gibraltar and bordered by Morocco, will be raised by around 20%, or 200 officers. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said soldiers are also being deployed.

Close to 7,000 people, including hundreds of children, entered the territory by swimming ashore or using rubber dinghies on Monday.

Spain Sends Troops to North Africa Enclave to Deter Migrants

The influx is likely to further inflame normally close relations between the two countries that took a downturn earlier this month, when Moroccan officials criticized Madrid for hosting the leader of a movement fighting for independence in Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony that’s claimed by Rabat.

Sanchez described the arrival of thousands of migrants as “a crisis for Spain and for Europe,” and said he’d respond with “firmness.”

“Morocco is a partner, a friend of Spain, and it must continue to be,” he told reporters before leaving for Ceuta. Effective cooperation “must be based on respect,” he said. Madrid later summoned Morocco’s ambassador, Karima Benyaich.

Before visiting the Spanish Foreign Ministry, Benyaich told Europa Press that “actions have consequences,” in a possible hint that Madrid should have seen the surge of migrants coming.

Morocco’s foreign affairs ministry later recalled Benyaich for consultations, a ministry spokesman told Bloomberg News.

Ylva Johansson, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, said she was following the situation closely. European nations have become especially sensitive to the arrival of large numbers of African and Middle East migrants seeking a better life after they spurred populist backlashes across the continent in recent years.

EFE said the “unstoppable caravan” continued on Tuesday with “thousands of Moroccans, sub-Saharan Africans and Arab citizens from countries such as Yemen” heading to Ceuta for a second day.

The Moroccan government in Rabat hasn’t commented on the developments. The Foreign Affairs Ministry didn’t reply to an emailed request for comment.

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