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Morocco king makes overture to Europe over migrant minors

By AFP - Jun 02,2021 - Last updated at Jun 02,2021

RABAT — King Mohammed VI wants to “settle definitively” the situation of Moroccan minors who have made the illicit journey to Europe, the North African nation’s government said on Tuesday.

The overture comes amid tensions between the kingdom and Spain, which last month saw around 10,000 migrants, including Moroccan minors, flood across the land border into the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in just four days.

A statement by Morocco’s interior and foreign ministries affirmed “the clear and firm engagement” of the kingdom “to accept the return of unaccompanied and duly identified minors”.

“Morocco is ready to collaborate, as always, with European nations and the European Union to settle this question,” it said.

The statement also attributes “slowness” in the repatriation process to “complex blockages in certain European countries”.

The surge of migrants into Ceuta last month as Moroccan border guards stood aside was widely seen as retaliation over Spain’s decision to host Brahim Ghali, leader of the Western Sahara independence movement the Polisario Front, for medical treatment.

Western Sahara is a former Spanish colony where the Polisario took up arms to demand independence from Morocco during a 16-year conflict that was until recently frozen by a 1991 ceasefire.

Ghali was treated in a hospital in the northern Spanish town of Logrono from mid-April after he developed severe Covid-19 symptoms.

Spain last month accused Morocco of “blackmail”, describing as “unacceptable” the use of minors “as an instrument to breach Spain’s territorial borders”.

Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said the situation was a “test of the strategic partnership” between Spain and Morocco in the fight against clandestine migration.

Ghali was on Tuesday questioned by a Spanish judge on allegations of torture and genocide by video link from hospital, where he is still convalescing.

His lawyer insists those allegations are “totally false” and suggests that Rabat is behind the lawsuits.

 

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