At­tack sparks ter­ror fears among hordes of mi­grants in Spain

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY MARTIN AROSTEGUI

CEUTA, SPAIN | A knife at­tack by an Is­lamist fa­natic at the bor­der cross­ing be­tween Spain and Morocco last week has high­lighted con­cerns about ter­ror­ists in­fil­trat­ing among the hordes of mi­grants who re­lent­lessly press up against the flimsy bar­ri­ers of Europe’s two land bor­ders with Africa.

In a re­cur­ring pat­tern of Is­lamic Statein­spired vi­o­lence seen in Is­rael, Europe and the U.S., a Moroc­can na­tional shout­ing “Al­lahu akhbar” stabbed a Span­ish po­lice of­fi­cer be­fore be­ing over­pow­ered last Tues­day along the en­trance to Spain’s North African en­clave of Melilla. Just 240 miles to the west, hun­dreds of mi­grants threat­ened to force their way into Ceuta, Spain’s other hold­ing on Africa’s Mediter­ranean coast.

The pres­sures are in­creas­ing as Madrid and other Euro­pean cap­i­tals strug­gle to deal with a surge in mi­grants flee­ing wars and seek­ing eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity. Over the past two years, the surge has di­vided the Euro­pean Union, up­ended the domestic po­lit­i­cal land­scape in nu­mer­ous coun­tries and sparked harsh crit­i­cism from hu­man rights groups.

Spain’s In­te­rior Min­istry is pro­ject­ing a three­fold increase in the flow of im­mi­grants from Africa this year, with more than 10,750 refugees seek­ing to enter the coun­try in the first half of 2017. The of­fice of the U.N. High Com­mis­sioner for Refugees has pre­dicted a dras­tic rise im­mi­gra­tion to Spain, warn­ing that it could soon face the same pres­sures that have plagued Italy, which has been swamped by 59,000 il­le­gal im­mi­grants since Jan­uary.

Span­ish In­te­rior Min­is­ter Juan Ig­na­cio Zoido said man­ag­ing the mi­gra­tion crush was one of the gov­ern­ment’s top pri­or­i­ties, one made even more ur­gent with the deaths of 49 peo­ple in the Alb­o­ran Sea in early July after their rub­ber boat sank.

But Mr. Zoido added that it was “not the re­spon­si­bil­ity” of the gov­ern­ment in Madrid that im­mi­grants had “de­cided to run away from their home­lands” in “boats that hardly float,” and added that Spain’s ca­pac­ity to wel­come im­mi­grants was limited.

This an­cient city claimed by Spain since the late 17th cen­tury is still sur­rounded by its me­dieval ram­parts is the rem­nant of what was once Span­ish Morocco. Ceuta was be­sieged in 1920 by the Be­douin rebel chief­tain Ab­del Krim, whose na­tive up­ris­ing routed an en­tire Span­ish army.

To­day, Ceuta and Melilla are again un­der siege as his­tory ap­pears on the verge of re­peat­ing it­self.

A dou­ble wire fence topped by con­certina wire is all that stands be­tween the two Span­ish en­claves cities and re­lent­less waves of sub-Sa­ha­ran and North African mi­grants, seek­ing to es­cape from the des­per­ate poverty, ter­ror­ist vi­o­lence, crim­i­nal bu­reau­cracy and chaos of their re­spec­tive na­tive coun­tries in search of a bet­ter life.

Mi­grants can be seen loi­ter­ing in the hills and val­leys sur­round­ing Ceuta, an­tic­i­pat­ing the chance to climb or break through the wire en­clo­sure cov­er­ing a 9-mile-perime­ter fence.

Many sit atop the 33-foot-high fence for hours and even days at a time. Over the ob­jec­tions of hu­man rights or­ga­ni­za­tions and left­ist mem­bers of par­lia­ment, the Span­ish gov­ern­ment in­stalled ad­di­tional rolls of con­certina wire on top of the fences to dis­cour­age the “fence dwellers.”

Groups of mi­grants also pile into vans known as “kamikazes,” which crash through the bor­der fences and road bar­ri­ers. Once in­side Span­ish ter­ri­tory, the mi­grants hope, au­thor­i­ties will be forced to ac­cept them as refugees. Three such kamikaze strikes have been re­ported this year.

The es­sen­tial com­po­nent of Spain’s wall con­sists of heat-sen­si­tive ther­mal cam­eras in­stalled ev­ery 50 to 100 yards along the fence, mon­i­tored by Spain’s gen­darmerie, the Civil Guard.

Just hours be­fore the knife-wield­ing ex­trem­ist at­tacked the bor­der cross­ing in Melilla on the morn­ing of July 25, the Civil Guard de­tected about 500 mi­grants gather­ing near the fence in Ceuta and di­rected Morocco’s security force, known as the DST, to where the groups were form­ing.

Pulling up in tanks and riot gear, the DST dis­persed the mi­grants with what crit­ics said was the kind of bru­tal­ity that the Moroc­can gov­ern­ment has em­ployed against unau­tho­rized po­lit­i­cal protests.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.