Attack sparks terror fears among hordes of migrants in Spain
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.