Hundreds of Moroccan children in limbo and sleeping on the streets of Ceuta

Authorities cannot deport unaccompanied minors who swam to Spanish enclave

Migrant minors wait to be tested for Covid-19 upon their arrival to the Spanish enclave of Ceuta. AFP
Migrant minors wait to be tested for Covid-19 upon their arrival to the Spanish enclave of Ceuta. AFP

Hundreds of children are thought to be sleeping on the streets of a Spanish enclave after they migrated from Morocco.

About 8,000 people last week swam to Ceuta, a Spanish territory in North Africa bordering Morocco, after Moroccan authorities appeared to loosen controls.

Most adults were returned to Morocco but Spanish law prevents the deportation of unaccompanied minors and those who have not been claimed by their parents need to be rehomed in Spain.

On Wednesday, about 200 unaccompanied children were transferred from Ceuta to various Spanish regions to relieve pressure on the enclave.

Ceuta's only centre for young migrants was full before last week’s influx, forcing authorities to set up temporary facilities to house the latest arrivals.

About 800 underage migrants were last week given shelter in empty warehouses. But the Red Cross estimated that hundreds more were sleeping on the streets.

Isa Brasero, the charity’s spokeswoman in Ceuta, said officials were limited in how much care they could provide.

"We're doing our best to provide the bare minimum, such as water, food and clothing," she said.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Wednesday accused Morocco of failing to protect its borders.

"The neighbour [Morocco] needs to control its borders as well, and this did not happen," he said.

"We're talking about Spanish cities, about European borders, and this must be respected."

The crisis began more than a week ago when Morocco, angered by news that Western Sahara independence leader Brahim Ghali was receiving hospital treatment in Spain, appeared to let its guard down at the border dividing Ceuta from Melilla, allowing hundreds of people to cross the water.

Updated: May 27, 2021 04:35 PM

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