Clashes erupt on Morocco border as Madrid accuses Rabat of extortion

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Spain on Thursday accused Morocco of ‘corruption’ for allowing a record eight thousand migrants to reach Ceuta’s North African Spanish enclave, triggering a crisis that resulted in clashes on the Moroccan side of the border overnight.

On Monday, Spanish authorities were caught off guard when a large number of people, mostly young people, began swimming or using small inflatable boats to cross the border as Moroccan border forces turned a blind eye, easily overwhelming the tiny region.

However, Madrid moved quickly to return the majority of the refugees, and the Spanish beach of Tarajal in Ceuta, where soldiers and armored vehicles were deployed in large numbers, has largely returned to calm.

On Thursday, the outskirts of the Moroccan border town of Fnideq, which was also heavily guarded, were deserted.

According to reports, hundreds of Moroccan youths threw stones at Moroccan border guards the night before, forcing them to retreat.

The youths also set fired to a motorcycle.

The migrant influx comes amid tensions between Rabat and Madrid over Spain’s decision to provide medical treatment for the leader of the Polisario Front, Brahim Ghali, who has Covid-19.

The Polisario Front has fought for the independence of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony mainly under Moroccan control.

Spanish Defence Minister Margarita Robles said Morocco’s actions were “an aggression of Spanish borders and of the borders of the European Union”.

“We are not talking about youths aged 16, 17, children as young as seven or eight were allowed through according to NGOs… ignoring international law,” she said in an interview with Spanish public radio on Thursday.

“Call it what you want but I call it blackmail,” she said, adding “it is not acceptable to put the lives of minors or of people of one’s own country, at risk.”

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