Fear of immigrant surge partially shuts Ceuta's border

A group of sub-Saharan Africans after entering Ceuta on Monday.
A group of sub-Saharan Africans after entering Ceuta on Monday. / Reuters
  • Guards have been overwhelmed as their stations are charged, as up to 3,000 more people are said to be waiting in the hills to cross into the city

Spain has partially closed its land border with Morocco in an unprecedented move to combat an increasing surge of illegal migrants storming the frontier and overwhelming the border guards on duty.

Early last Monday morning, 186 immigrants caught the eight officials on duty by surprise when they raced across the border post that joins Morocco to Ceuta, a Spanish city on the North African coast on the other side of the Strait of Gibraltar. A further large group made the same trip the next night.

The Interior Ministry, working with the Moroccan government, believes that there are between 1,500 and 3,000 sub-Saharan Africans camped out in the hills near Ceuta and Tangier, waiting to enter the Spanish city and who have been encouraged by others’ recent success.

Until the middle of next week, the El Tarajal II border post will be shut. This is a new crossing set up for the 4,000-5,000 human carriers of smaller, tolerated contraband that cross between Spain and Morocco every day. In the summer the carriers’ numbers drop.

This shutdown will allow police and border guards to concentrate their efforts on the old El Tarajal I post and the protective fencing that rings the city.