FECL 10 (November 1992):


The introduction by the EC of the visa obligation for nationals of the Maghreb states has lead to a dramatic increase of refugees and migrants seeking to enter into Spain illegaly by crossing the Strait of Gibraltar in small and unadapted boats. According to concurring estimates presented by Spanish relief organizations and Moroccan opposition circles at least 300 boat people died since the beginning of this year in attempts to cross the Strait. Spain and Morocco are reacting by increasing police cooperation.

Already after the introduction of the visa obligation for citizens from the Maghreb countries and the rest of Africa by the EC, a year ago, the Spanish police force "Guardia Civil" set up an extra-territorial outpost at the Moroccan ferry port of Tanger in order to "filter" out unwanted immigrants. Recently, agreement has been reached to vigourously enforce the provisions on deportation and repatriation already included in the Spanish - Moroccan treaty on "Friendship and Cooperation" of 1990.

The Moroccan government had previously refused to take back third country nationals, even when they had started their passage from Moroccan ports. Now, Morocco has agreed on doing so, on condition however, that Spain bears all the costs involved. Under these conditions more than 2000 deportations have been carried out, alone in 1992.

In view of a speedy entry into force of the Schengen Treaty Spain expects a further rise of the migratory influx. Anxious not to jeopardize their bargaining position in the negociations on Moroccan association with the EC the Moroccan authorities have drastically reinforced their coast guard. Smugglers reacted by raising their fares from fees corresponding to 800 Swiss francs to 1500-2000 Sfr. per person.

Moroccan opposition circles also link the massive border police operations to the local elections due for 16 October which have been marked by nation-wide intimidation campaigns of the regime.

Alexander Gschwind


(The author lives in Madrid and works as a correspondent for several Swiss newspapers and the Swiss Public Broadcasting Corporation SRG)