In May, about 12,000 migrants flooded into the North African Spanish enclave of Ceuta from neighboring Morocco, The New York Times reported. Recent video footage has emerged showing a Moroccan security guard opening the border fence to allow migrants to enter Ceuta.

  • Spain has now accused Morocco of using migrants as political leverage, per The New York Times.

The incident escalated worsening tensions between Morocco and Spain, according to ABC News.

What happened with migrants in Ceuta?

Ceuta is a 6-mile peninsula controlled by Spain on the northern coast of Morocco. The enclave is considered E.U. territory and separated from Morocco with a tightly controlled border, The Washington Post reported. The enclave is a key location for migrants hoping to reach Europe.

  • On May 17, over 6,000 migrants walked, swam or floated from Morocco to Ceuta, the most unregulated migrants to enter Spain in a single day, The Washington Post said.
  • The influx of migrants continued for multiple days, per the Post.

Spain has deported about half of the migrants, mostly Moroccan citizens, but allowed minors and asylum-seekers to stay, The New York Times reported.

Why did Morocco allow unregulated migration?

“Morocco increasingly sees the migrants as a kind of currency and is leveraging its control over them to extract financial and political prizes from Spain,” The New York Times reported.

  • Hours after migrants began entering Ceuta, Spain approved $37 million in aid to Morocco for improving border policing, per The New York Times.

“They’re weaponizing migration,” said José Ignacio Torreblanca, a professor at the National Distance Education University in Madrid, via The New York Times.

Morocco’s actions around Ceuta come as retaliation for Spain giving COVID-19 medical treatment to Brahim Ghali, the leader of the rebel group Polisario Front which has been fighting Morocco for decades, The Washington Post said.

What happens now between Morocco and Spain?

Diplomatic divides between Morocco and Spain are quickly deepening, ABC News reported. The tensions seem unlikely to be resolved quickly or easily.

  • Earlier, Morocco’s Foreign Ministry said the issue “is about trust and mutual respect, which has been broken between Morocco and Spain,” ABC News reported.

“If (Morocco) is saying that because of a foreign policy disagreement it stops respecting borders and allows a massive influx of migrants onto Spanish soil, that in my view is not acceptable,” said Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on Monday, via ABC News.

  • Following Spain’s accusation of using migrants for political leverage, Morocco’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying, “The origins of the crisis are well known, especially by the Spanish public,” according to The New York Times.

As the situation continues to develop, the victims of the recent flare in diplomatic tensions are the migrants and refugees caught in the middle, The Washington Post said.