By Siham Ali
Moroccan authorities have in the past few weeks clamped down on illegal migrants, kicking nearly 500 of them out of the country since early September, AFP reported on Tuesday (September 18th).
They are usually sent back across the Algerian border near Oujda, officially closed since 1994 but now the main entry point for African migrants coming into the country.
Spain has also been at the forefront of the crackdown, with Madrid and Rabat co-operating to evict scores of migrants who had swum to a tiny Spanish islet just off Morocco.
Officials from both countries met earlier this month in Rabat to discuss joint efforts to fight clandestine immigration.
“We need to deal with migratory issues in a balanced fashion and in the spirit of shared responsibility,” Moroccan Minister Delegate for Foreign Affairs and Co-operation Youssef Amrani said at the first-ever Spanish-Moroccan parliamentary forum held on September 5th.
Curtailing illegal migratory flows is not an easy task, the diplomat reminded, but Morocco is making efforts to solve the problem.
Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Garcia-Margallo praised the level of co-operation with Morocco in fighting illegal immigration.
This collaboration must become permanent, according to Chamber of Representatives President Karim Ghellab. The issue of illegal immigration to be dealt with not only in terms of security, but must be viewed from the economic standpoint of co-development, he pointed out.
Meanwhile, Spanish Senate President Pio Garcia-Escudero Marquez assured that the 800,000 Moroccans living in Spain will have exactly the same entitlement as Spanish nationals to help in dealing with the effects of the economic crisis in the country.
Security co-operation affects not only migration, but will also extend to counter-terrorism, organised crime, weapons smuggling and drugs trafficking, according to officials from both countries.
For his part, Enrique Cascallana Gallastegui, spokesman of the Interior Committee in the Spanish Senate, welcomed the fruitful collaboration in the fight against terrorism, which has made it possible to dismantle a number of international terrorist groups.
He called for economic and social development to deal with the causes of terrorism, which is not a problem for Morocco and Spain alone, but a more global phenomenon.
The security issue requires a regional approach, he said. What is happening in the Sahel-Saharan region with the arrival of terrorist elements linked to organised drugs smuggling networks is not a threat just to countries in the area, but affects the northern shores of the Mediterranean and Spain in particular.
Alejandro Munoz-Alonso Ledo, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Spanish Senate, shared the view. He expressed concern over insecurity in the Sahel, reminding his audience of the abduction of Spanish nationals in the Tindouf camps by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).