Ceuta’s Migration Crisis highlights EU policy flaws

The Spanish city of Ceuta has witnessed an unprecedented influx of migrants coming from Morocco this week. 

The Spanish city of Ceuta has witnessed an unprecedented influx of migrants coming from Morocco this week.  It is estimated that around 8,000 migrants have crossed the border from Morocco to Spain, ramping up tensions between Madrid and its former colony. The ongoing humanitarian crisis in  Ceuta casts a spotlight once again on Europe’s policy flaws.

“It’s important to understand that we’re seeing children that are much younger than the usual – children of seven, eight, nine years old,” Spain’s Minister for Social Rights, Lone Belarra told broadcaster RTVE on Wednesday.

“Many of them didn’t understand the consequences of crossing the border and we’re finding that many of them want to return home,” Belarra added.

The uncertainty hovering over the future of these migrants–alongside others who crossed the border to Madrid earlier this week–presents a tricky issue not only for Spain but also for the European Union.

There are a number of interpretations regarding Rabat’s decision to break the migration deal with Madrid. Some analysts believe that Spain’s decision to allow Covid-19 treatment for independence leader Brahim Ghali, who played a key role in the struggle of the Sahrawi people for self-determination and independence from Morocco, prompted Rabat to act aggressively.

The decision to take in the Polisario Front leader was “reckless, irresponsible and totally unacceptable”, Mustapha Ramid, Morocco’s Minister in charge of human rights, said in a recent Facebook post.

Yet despite Morocco’s outrage over Madrid’s decision, others believe that the issue dates back to former US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara.

Irene Fernández-Molina, an international relations professor at the University of Exeter says: “In my view, the real cause dates back to [Donald] Trump’s recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara in December of last year. That was a decision that totally changed the game”

Rabat exploits the migration issue for political gains. In other words, Trump’s decision prompted Morocco to use the migration card as a leverage tool over Madrid. If Spain refuses to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara, Rabat will break the migration deal with Madrid. “The treatment of migrants as pawns for political gain is a moral failure,” Emily Venturi, a fellow at Chatham House said.

In short, Trump’s decision increased Madrid’s vulnerability to Morocco’s leverage, as Rabat aims to receive European recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara.

“Spain is, in a way, vulnerable to Moroccan pressure and Moroccan leverage because of the reliance on Morocco for everything related to security, cooperation, and migration control,” said Fernández-Molina.

This issue has, once again, shown how Europe is vulnerable to the weaponization of migration by less developed countries that seek financial or political gain.

The former Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi, for instance, had exploited European fears of a migration flood from Sanaa before he got toppled in 2011. Likewise, the Turkish President asked for 6 Billion Euros in exchange for a migration deal with the EU.

Despite its purported dedication to promoting human rights across the world, the EU turns a blind eye to the humanitarian crisis that migrants are facing in the Third world countries.

Instead of initiating deals with these countries, the EU should have a proper refugee resettlement system to meet its normative rhetoric.

In an article entitled “Blocked by Diplomatic Barriers: Syrian Refugees and the EU-Turkey Migration Cooperation” Hassib and Nounu say: “Instead of exporting its normative responsibility to offer refugees a safe haven to other countries with questionable political and economic circumstances; the EU should reinforce the principle of solidarity and burden-sharing among Member states and establish an organized EU refugee resettlement system.”

Protecting human rights should not be an impediment to combating terrorism. Thus, the EU should strike a balance between national security and human rights when addressing the migration issue.

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