The first meeting of the Spanish-Moroccan cooperation group on migration and border issues took place in Rabat

Rabat acuerda con España repatriar a los menores no acompañados a Marruecos

Morocco today reminded Spain of its commitment, in accordance with the instructions of King Mohammed VI, to repatriate all "duly identified" unaccompanied minors who enter Spanish territory.

This was one of the aspects discussed at the meeting of the Spanish-Moroccan group held today in Rabat, the first since 2019 due to the pandemic and the diplomatic crisis between the two countries until, a month ago, it was settled with the meeting in Rabat of the President of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez, with the Moroccan monarch.

After that meeting, which followed Spain's support for a Moroccan autonomy regime over Western Sahara, the two leaders agreed on a series of points to resume their relations, including the promotion of bilateral forums such as the one held today.

The crisis between Spain and Morocco was staged with the entry of thousands of people in May 2021 through the borders of Ceuta in the face of Moroccan passivity, among them 800 minors, dozens of whom were repatriated to the Maghreb country but another 300 still remain in the autonomous city.

Regarding these minors (whose repatriation procedures to Morocco were called into question by the Spanish justice system), the Moroccan and Spanish delegations meeting today agreed to act taking into account "the best interests of the minor", especially through "prevention and protection".

The meeting was attended by the Spanish Secretaries of State for the Interior, Foreign Affairs and Migration, as well as the Moroccan Directors General for the Interior, Foreign Affairs, Employment and Social Development, and discussed strengthening their collaboration in the fight against migrant smuggling networks.

In this regard, Spain and Morocco indicate that the return of migrants to their countries of origin constitutes "an essential instrument of dissuasion" in which both parties are committed to providing "agile and flexible responses".

In the joint note, both countries stress the importance of funds to combat irregular migration from Europe, where Spain 'will continue to highlight Morocco's role as a strategic partner of the EU from all angles'.

Also the mechanisms for the regular migration of Moroccan labour working in Spain (such as the so-called 'freseras', women who travel to the European country every year to harvest berries), 'one of the most solid and recognised examples of success at European and international level'.

This is one of the aspects included in another communiqué released after the meeting, this time by the Spanish Ministry of the Interior, in which it advocates regular Moroccan migration through recruitment at source.

The Spanish government is also committed to speeding up student access to Spanish universities and the granting of visas to Moroccans.

In the note, the Secretary of State for Migration, Jesús Perea, affirms that the programme for hiring at source (GECCO) for strawberry growers will allow 12,000 Moroccan women to work in Spain this year.

He added that the Secretary of State for Migration will continue to support the improvement of access routes for Moroccan students who wish to complete their university education in Spain.

Coinciding with the meeting, sources from the Moroccan Interior Ministry provided Efe with figures on the country's fight against illegal emigration.

According to their data, the Moroccan authorities rescued 14,236 migrants from the Atlantic and the Mediterranean in 2021 and another 97 during the first quarter of this year.

As for the assaults on the fences of the Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla, the authorities of the Maghreb country aborted 49 in 2021, 47 of them in Melilla, and another 12 from January to March this year, all in Melilla.

In addition, Morocco dismantled 256 criminal migrant smuggling networks in 2021 and another 52 in the first three months of this year.

The meeting held today in Rabat culminates a week of intense bilateral activity, after another meeting yesterday in the Moroccan capital to finalise the details of the Operation Crossing the Strait (OPE) that both countries will relaunch this summer once the diplomatic crisis has been overcome.

Next week the Spanish Foreign Minister, José Manuel Albares, is expected to travel to Marrakech to attend the meeting of the alliance against the Islamic State.