EU Condemns Morocco Over Use of Migrant Children to Apply Political Pressure to Spain

European Union officials accused Morocco of putting the lives of migrant children at risk in an attempt to apply political pressure on Spain after 1,200 unaccompanied minors entered Ceuta last month.

The children were among the 8,000 people who tried to enter the EU territory where they could apply for asylum. Morocco has since taken back most of the migrants.

The lawmakers said they rejected "Morocco's use of border control and migration, and unaccompanied minors in particular, as political pressure" against an EU nation. They were outraged that children and families were "putting their lives and safety at clear risk."

The EU urged Spain and Morocco to work together to deport children and families in alignment with national and international law.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Migrants in Ceuta
Spanish troops guard the Tarajal beach on the border between Spain and Morocco while cleaning workers remove the dirt accumulated all these days on May 19, 2021 in Ceuta, Spain. European Union officials accused Morocco of putting the lives of migrant children at risk in an attempt to apply political pressure on Spain after 1,200 unaccompanied minors entered Ceuta last month. Joan Amengual/VIEWpress

The surge of migrants took place after Spain agreed to provide medical treatment for the Sahrawi leader heading the fight for an independent Western Sahara, which was annexed by Morocco in the 1970s. Rabat reacted furiously and recalled its ambassador in Madrid.

The Associated Press and other media witnessed several incidents in which the Spanish authorities in Ceuta sent many migrants who did make it back to Morocco, including a lot of children. Human rights organizations say those actions are illegal.

The resolution suggested that Moroccan authorities were complicit in transporting the minors. It said that "most of the children were wrongly led to believe that star footballers were playing in a match with free entrance in the city of Ceuta and that they were on a school excursion."

No evidence was provided by the parliament. AP has been unable to independently verify whether this was true and Moroccan authorities have repeatedly rejected those claims.

The EU lawmakers also expressed regrets about the damage to ties with a near neighbor who has a good track record of cooperation with the 27-nation bloc on trade, counter-terrorism and drug trafficking.

In the days before the resolution was adopted, Moroccan officials expressed concern that its bilateral issue with Spain might take on a broader European dimension and they urged lawmakers to tone down their criticism.

Chaoui Belassal, head of the EU-Morocco Joint Parliamentary Committee, said this week that "Morocco is fulfilling its commitments" toward the bloc, which provides significant development and migration aid to the country.

He emphasized the "great efforts made by Morocco with regard to all issues that fall within its relations with the European Union, including immigration, the fight against extremism, terrorism (and) money laundering."

Morocco Child Migrants
Spanish children play on the beach near the border fence separating Spain and Morocco in the district of Benzu, Spanish enclave of Ceuta, Thursday, June 3, 2021. European Union officials accused Morocco of putting the lives of migrant children at risk in an attempt to apply political pressure on Spain after 1,200 unaccompanied minors entered Ceuta last month. Bernat Armangue/AP Photo