By Siham Ali
Morocco and Spain each face terrorism, organised crime, smuggling and illegal immigration. This week in Rabat, the countries agreed to address the problems together.
Moroccan Interior Minister Mohand Laenser and his Spanish counterpart Jorge Fernandez Diaz met in Morocco on Tuesday (February 28th) to discuss the shared security threats.
During Diaz’s visit to Rabat, his first abroad since the new Spanish government came to power, the ministers agreed that two joint police centres, one in Tangier and the other in Algeciras, would be set up to boost co-operation between the security services of both countries.
The countries will also hold a summit next October in Morocco to co-ordinate efforts against terrorism in the Sahel-Saharan region.
Fernandez Diaz said that the security relationship between Spain and Morocco was already strong and encompassed a number of aspects, including intelligence-sharing. Diaz expressed the desire of both countries to strengthen their links further.
He also commented that the partnership between the Spanish Guardia Civil and the royal Moroccan gendarmerie was strong and would be even more so in the future.
The Spanish minister came to Rabat with a sizeable delegation so that Moroccan national security, gendarmerie and immigration officers could speak directly to their Spanish counterparts.
In reply to a question about the kidnapping of two Spaniards and an Italian woman in October from a camp in Tindouf, the Spanish official said that Morocco and Spain were working together to find a solution. However, he refused to reveal details, saying, “In sensitive matters such as this, discretion is advisable if solutions are to be found.”
Both parties agreed to engage in more talks at future bilateral meetings. “We gave instructions to all departments to work together to deal with all threats facing the region,” Laenser said. “We will have more opportunities to hammer out the operational measures to be taken with regard to counterterrorism and security in general,” he said.
As for the prevention of illegal immigration, Diaz hailed the efforts made by Morocco and pledged that Spain would offer assistance.
In reply to a question about maltreatment of illegal migrants by the Moroccan authorities, the Spanish minister said that the Moroccan government complies with international law. Mohand Laenser said that Morocco has chosen to be a law-abiding nation and therefore respects the rights of illegal migrants, and added that the country was obliged to transfer many migrants to their countries of origin.
Experts believe that despite political differences, Morocco and Spain have always seen eye to eye over security.
Hatim Ziraoui, an international relations expert, said that both countries agreed several years ago to boost the level of co-operation between their interior ministries in order to deal with regional security challenges.
“The security situation in the Sahel is worrying. Then there are the problems of illegal immigration and trafficking of all kinds. All countries in the region must therefore work together to tackle terrorism and cross-border crime,” Ziraoui said.