FILE PHOTO: Migrants stand on the beach in Fnideq, close to the Spanish enclave Ceuta, in Morocco, May 19, 2021. REUTERS/Shereen Talaat
May 25, 2021
MADRID (Reuters) - Spain will transfer some 200 unaccompanied Moroccan children from its North African enclave of Ceuta to other regions after a surge in migration overwhelmed the city's infrastructure, stoking tensions between Madrid and Rabat.
Around 8,000 people swam into Ceuta or clambered over the border fence early last week after Moroccan authorities appeared to loosen controls, prompting Spain to deploy troops and extra police.
Most have been returned to Morocco but around 800 unaccompanied minors remain, according to Ceuta's regional government. Those who have not been claimed by their parents cannot be deported.
Social Rights Minister Ione Belarra said on Tuesday that regional authorities around Spain had agreed to house nearly 200 children who were already in Ceuta before last week's crisis, allowing authorities to better attend to the latest arrivals.
Before last week, Ceuta's sole centre for young migrants was already full, forcing local authorities to set up temporary facilities to house the rest.
Footage from state broadcaster RTVE showed rows of young children seated on concrete floors in one of the centres.
Belarra stressed that most wanted to return home and would not stay in Spain.
"We estimate the number of children who really want to migrate to our country will be approximately the same as the places we are offering," she told reporters outside the ministry. "Many were fooled into believing they were coming on a pleasure trip, which was not the case."
She did not make clear who she thought were misleading the youngsters.
A telephone line for Moroccan families to reclaim their children has received thousands of calls but it is unclear how many of those will lead to repatriations.
Most of the children in Ceuta are teenagers but some are as young as six or seven, a regional government spokeswoman said, adding that an unknown number were sleeping on the streets and avoiding police.