Morocco is to facilitate the re-entry of stranded unaccompanied minors who recently entered the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, after thousands crossed the border in May.
Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has instructed the country’s government to facilitate the re-entry of all identified unaccompanied Moroccan children who are currently in the European Union without papers.
Last month, after Morocco temporarily suspended its border control following a number of diplomatic disputes between the two countries, thousands of people crossed into Spain’s North African enclave of Ceuta.
Morocco’s foreign and interior ministries said in a statement that even though Morocco had already worked with EU countries to ensure the return of minors, procedures in some countries were delaying their return. The statement appeared to be a response to reports in Spanish media that Morocco was not taking back migrants in line with previous cooperation agreements.
Most migrants who crossed into Ceuta were immediately returned to Morocco, through informal deportations -- although these are highly controversial, they have become common in Ceuta due to an agreement between Spain and Morocco.
However, hundreds of unaccompanied children remained as these practices are prohibited in relation to minors. Now in the Spanish territory, many of them are being left to their own devices.
Last month, 200 unaccompanied children were transferred to mainland Spain from Ceuta.
Tensions have mounted between the two countries after Spain’s decision to take in Western Sahara independence leader Brahim Ghali for medical treatment without informing Rabat. Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, has been in a conflict with Morocco for over 40 years.
In what seems to be a reaction to Spain’s position on Western Sahara, it appeared to relax border controls with Ceuta last month, as well as recalling its ambassador to Madrid for consultations. This led to a further escalation of the disputes between the two states.
On Tuesday, June 1, Reuters reported that the Moroccan government claimed that the issue of migration was being used to distract from what it called the "real causes of the current political crisis with Spain," referring to Madrid’s position on Western Sahara.