Diplomatic relations between the two countries have cooled considerably since the Spanish Prime Minister’s abrupt change of stance on the issue of Western Sahara. A easing of controls at the border between Algeria and Morocco could redirect the eastern route of African immigration to North Africa. The eastern route usually passes through Egypt, Libya and Tunisia to other Mediterranean countries.
Algeria accuses Morocco of ‘massacre’
Algeria yesterday accused a high-ranking official in the Foreign Ministry of Morocco of a “massacre” in an attempt to infiltrate Melilla of about 2,000 migrants from various African countries. The hundreds of people at the border fence, along with police brutality and the lack of medical care for the victims for hours by the Moroccan authorities, have caused 37 deaths, according to several NGOs. The Moroccan authorities reduce the number to 23.
Amar Belani, responsible for the issue of Western Sahara and the Maghreb countries in the Algerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in the Algerian media: “These tragic events show the systematic violation of human rights by a state that has chosen to make it a political purpose, extortion and act as Europe’s gendarmes in outsourcing the management of the EU’s external borders “.
Algeria and Morocco have been at loggerheads for decades. In March, relations deteriorated further following the announcement of the agreement between Pedro Sánchez and Mohamed VI on Western Sahara’s sovereignty. In this context, with the ongoing verbal tension between the two countries, several sources in the Spanish security forces have warned the newspaper El Mundo that Algiers “for months” has eased its control in the approximately 1,700-kilometer-long border it maintains with its neighbor.
“Everyone is playing their cards the way they can or want to. If Algeria is angry at Spain over the Sahara issue, it is not surprising that it is using immigration with its historic rival Morocco to create groups of foreigners near Melilla. ” The distance between the Algerian border and Melilla is two hours, according to this Spanish intelligence source.
Another source, who says he is in close contact with the Moroccan authorities, added: “Until now, Algeria had a lock on the border with Morocco. Most of the Algerian immigrants arrived by boat. But now we have discovered a greater porosity in border with Morocco.What if it could be a result of the agreement between Spain and Morocco? It is a possibility, no doubt.A sign of this is that there are more and more Sudanese.In the past, they came in small groups and gave preference to Libya route.Now there are over 500 on the other side of the border with Melilla, plus those who came in on Friday and months ago.These people are coming from somewhere.It is true that Libya is dangerous but it is not only reason.
Last Friday, 133 migrants managed to reach Melilla. They were referred to the Temporary Residence Center for Immigrants (CETI) in the self-governing city, where they are in quarantine. A large proportion of them came from Sudan, a country in East Africa, from where, until a few years ago, almost no people came to the center.
Now, however, the Sudanese are in the majority. Out of the 325 foreigners who registered with Melilla CETI on June 21, 2022, 139 were Sudanese, according to a document consulted by El Mundo. That number will be even higher after updating.
Background to the conflict between Spain and Algeria
On March 18, the Spanish government acknowledged that it had reached an agreement with Morocco to grant Western Sahara autonomy. It is a former Spanish colony under Moroccan sovereignty. Until then, Spain was always pushing for a referendum on self-determination. That position was also defended by the UN. Since this pact was announced, relations between Madrid and Algiers have been strained, while Madrid and Rabat have returned to cordiality and cooperation.
Just two weeks after the announcement of the agreement, on April 4, 2022, Melilla CETI already housed 286 Sudanese out of 828 migrants registered in the center. Sudan was the second country of origin after Mali (326). Now it is already the first. Sudanese citizenship has a recognition of 88% of asylum applications in Spain -one of the highest-. Asylum seekers are persecuted in their country and risk death if they return. Last year there was a coup in Sudan.
In Nador, 21 graves are being prepared for emigrants, “who will be buried without autopsy or after being identified,” the Moroccan Human Rights Association condemned.