3rd Oct 2022

EU calls on Morocco to sign up to immigrant deal

The European Commission has urged Morocco to sign an agreement with the EU on repatriation of illegal immigrants before the end of November, with a formal request due from Brussels on Monday (3 October).

The commission says a repatriation agreement with Morocco, a country from which most Sub-Saharan Africans reach Spain in boats through the straits of Gibraltar, or by climbing the tall fences that surround the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, is important in order to prevent "tragic events" like the recent storming of the enclaves.

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  • Europe wants Morocco to help stem the flow of illegal immigration (Photo: EU Commission)

Last week, in one of three attempts by hundreds of immigrants to breach the enclaves' defences, two Sub-Saharan Africans were shot and another three died when they jumped from the barbed wire fence that surrounds Ceuta.

Spanish civil guards accused their Moroccan counterparts of the shootings and wounded immigrants have confirmed that the fire came from the Moroccan side of the border.

Justice commissioner Franco Frattini will, at Monday's meeting with Moroccan authorities, try to establish an agreement that binds Morocco to re-admitting not only Moroccan illegal citizens found on European ground, but also third country citizens if they have used Morocco as a transit country.

But on the same day as the shootings, (Wednesday 28 September) the European Parliament voted down the Asylum Procedure Directive's list of "safe countries" under which asylum seekers arriving from countries on the list would be sent back automatically under a fast-track procedure. Morocco was one of the countries on the list.

MEPs also voted in favour of the right of asylum-seekers to stay on the territory during possible appeals, if the immigrants' request for asylum is rejected.

After last week's stormings of the Spanish enclaves, there were calls for more burden sharing between EU countries and transit countries like Morocco and Libya, from which a high number of illegal immigrants reach Italy and Malta.

The president of the autonomous town of Melilla, Juan Jose Imbroda, insisted after hearing of a new storming of Melilla this morning (3 October) that the solution to the problem has to emerge from Morocco.

"The solution has to come from the other side of the border", he told newspaper radio news channel Cadena SER.

Spanish newspaper El Pais reports that the Spanish civil guard accused Moroccan forces of acting "passively" and of having "dropping their guard" as another 700 sub-Saharan Africans tried to get into Melilla.

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