April 19, 2024

Photo : Reuters

By: Sara Kira

Founder of EUNACR



Photo: Reuters



  • EU commission insisted that all of those immigrants who do not have the legal right to stay in Ceuta are orderly returned.
  • 8.000 migrants have illegally entered Spain’s North African enclave of Ceuta.
  • Members of the European Commission too have called the arrivals “worrying,” and called for stronger partnerships to manage migration.
  • AP reported then that Spain had already expelled around half of the estimated 8,000 migrants who arrived in the Spanish enclaves on Monday and Tuesday.
  • The president of the EU commission urged and called on Morocco to prevent those illegal migrants from crossing the borders.


On Wednesday 19th of May 2021, Spain announced that more than 5,600 of the 8,000 migrants who have illegally entered Ceuta, have been sent back to Morocco, and dozens of young men queued up to re-enter Morocco. Some of the 5,600 were voluntarily returned to Morocco. While others have carried away by the soldiers. As the president of the EU commission insisted that all those immigrants who do not have the legal right to stay in Ceuta are orderly returned.

Ceuta Illegal Immigration Crisis:

8.000 migrants have illegally entered Spain’s North African enclave of Ceuta on Monday 17th of May 2021.

The flows of immigrants continued to cross the borders and reach into Ceuta until the next day, but with smaller rates than the day before.  Immigrants’ flows included whole families and teenagers. As a result, to the massive arrivals of immigrants from Morocco, the Spanish prime minster insisted that the government will act “in the face of any challenge, and under any circumstances in order to “restore order in Ceuta as quickly as possible”.

May 18th,  Spain responded to these flows by deploying troops to the border,200 troops plus 200 extra police were going to assist Ceuta normal 1,100 strong border force. On Wednesday 19th, Spain announced sending 5.600 of the 8.000 migrants  back to Morocco. However, it did not explain how the departure of the immigrants took place.

Spain has been targeted by illegal immigrants  on its shores in Ceuta and also Melilla, which is another  enclave that witnessed another huge flow of immigrants  from Sub-Saharan Africa. The two Spanish enclaves (Ceuta and Melilla) are illegal immigrants’ transit from the southern shores of the Mediterranean to the rest of Europe.


Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on his arrival at Melilla Airport, 18 May 2021, in Melilla (Spain) | Photo: Imago








Roots of the crisis: Diplomatic tensions between Spain and Morocco.

Strong diplomatic tensions between Morocco and Spain are already there ever since Madrid decided  to provide medical treatment to Ghali (the leader of the Western Sahara independence movement”, who has been infected by Covid-19. This decision raised political tension between both sates, who share borders. Morocco has always wanted Spain to acknowledge the former’s sovereignty over the Sub-Sahara,

as since along time the authorities in Morocco wanted Spain to acknowledge their authority over Western Sahara.

In allowing these massive flows of illegal migrants from Morocco to Ceuta, Morocco had sent a strong message to Spain that it will has a problem in controlling these flows without Morocco cooperation. On the other hand, the Spanish foreign minister insisted that there is no relation or connection between these massive flows of immigrants and the presence of Ghali in Spain.


EU Response to the crisis:

These sudden and massive flows of illegal immigrants from Morocco to Ceuta poses a serious security  crisis not only for Spain, but also for the EU as a whole, this was highlighted when  The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen said on Twitter that the EU “stands in solidarity with Ceuta and Spain.” Von der Leyen reiterated the need to find “common EU solutions to migration management,” and the importance of building “stronger partnerships based on mutual trust and joint commitments with key partners like Morocco.”






The EU commission seized the opportunity  to urge member states to come to an agreement about the proposals for the new EU pact on migration which was put forward last September but has still not come into effect.

A member of von der Leyen’s team, Margaritis Schinas, who is the EU Commissioner for the European Way of Life, also commented on the situation in Ceuta. Euronews reported that he told a Spanish radio station on Wednesday morning that Europe “would not be a victim of these tactics.”

Schinas added that “Ceuta is Europe, this border is a European border and what is happening there is not Madrid’s problem, it is the problem of all.”

On another EU level, The EU Home Affair’s Commissioner Ylva Johansson who has responsibility for migration within the Commission also added her voice, and tweets, to the expression of European solidarity with Spain, saying that the arrival of so many people was “worrying.”

EU leaders on Tuesday, 18th of May, urged Morocco to protect its border with Spain after more than 6,000 migrants arrived in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in a single day.

European Council President Charles Michel expressed “full solidarity” with Spain after holding urgent talks with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who canceled a trip to Paris to deal with what he termed a “serious crisis” for both his country and the EU.