Morocco beefs up security near Ceuta and Melilla

Cooperation with Spain will be total, sources said

Moroccan soldiers help an immigrant in waters close to Ceuta.
Moroccan soldiers help an immigrant in waters close to Ceuta.JUAN MEDINA (REUTERS)

Morocco has reinforced security near the borders separating its territory from the Spanish exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, on the northern coast of Africa, the Interior Ministry said.

The measure is a result of a meeting between Spain's interior minister, Jorge Fernández Díaz, and his Moroccan counterpart, Mohamed Hassad, on February 20.

The meeting took place soon after the Tarajal tragedy, in which 15 migrants perished as they tried to reach Ceuta on February 6, and a subsequent massive run on the Melilla fence on February 17.

During the tête-à-tête, which lasted over two hours according to sources briefed on the matter, both officials discussed ways to heighten bilateral cooperation on irregular immigration. “Support is going to be total," said these sources.

 Near Melilla, the Moroccan police have forbidden the press from accessing Mount Gurugú, where hundreds of sub-Saharans wait for their chance to cross into Europe. "You need a government permit to go up," said one police officer.

Several sub-Saharans said that Moroccan forces raided their camp late at night, beat them, razed their tents and arrested several people. “And they broke my leg," says Thierry Hermann, a 23-year-old from Cameroon who also has cuts to his face from his failed attempt to jump the Melilla fence, crowned with concertina wire.

Morocco has also decided to increase its military presence more than 390 kilometers from here, in the hills surrounding Ceuta, where the Tarajal tragedy occurred. Two generals have been dispatched to the area to supervise and organize the troops there.

Ceuta authorities estimate that between 1,500 and 2,000 migrants are waiting between here and Tangier, 70 kilometers away, to attempt a border crossing in the coming days.

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