Spanish government berates European Commission for Ceuta tragedy criticism

Interior minister requests “emergency aid” to help combat immigration in North African exclaves

The Spanish government expressed its anger Monday at the European Commission for its criticism of last month’s incident in which at least 15 migrants died trying to enter Ceuta.

The government wants 45 million euros from Brussels in the form of an extraordinary and urgent payment to help confront the “emergency situation” in Ceuta and in Spain’s other North African exclave of Melilla.

Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz met with the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström, for over an hour on Monday morning to offer explanations over the rubber bullet episode in Ceuta on February 6.

The meeting comes after several public and private exchanges in which reproaches were lodged by each side over the incident.

The government demands respect and support for the Civil Guard”

Speaking after the meeting, Fernández Díaz called the criticisms “imprudent” and “inadequate.” Facing such criticism, he said “the government demands respect and support for the Civil Guard.” He also related the row between Brussels and the Spanish government to the rise in the number of illegal immigrants trying to reach the EU via Ceuta and Melilla. “Those paying close attention to all these controversies are the mafias. And that is why what is occurring is occurring,” he said.

And what is happening, according to the minister, is an almost unprecedented emergency situation. Last Friday 214 illegal immigrants entered Melilla in one border assault, a figure that had not been recorded since 2005.

The government has requested the 45 million euros in emergency funds to increase border measures and reinforce the Ceuta and Melilla security fences.

The minister said 40,000 people were waiting to jump the frontiers into Ceuta and Melilla, with 40,000 more elsewhere in Morocco. “And there are hundreds of thousands of others further down,” Fernández Díaz said.

In the meeting, Malmström received first-hand information regarding the drowning of at least 15 sub-Saharans as they were trying to reach Spain from Moroccan territory. Border police fired rubber bullets towards a large group of migrants as they jumped the Ceuta fence.

Brussels suspects this created a panic situation that drove many of them into the water in an attempt to swim around a seawall barrier and that the Civil Guard also fired rubber bullets into the water.

Besides this one-on-one meeting, ministers from the 28 member states will be discussing migratory pressure in general. Until now the Commission and the European Council have been opposed to granting greater priority to the Ceuta and Melilla entry points compared with those elsewhere on the continent.

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