A Moroccan boy used plastic bottles attached to his body to float and successfully swim this Wednesday (10) to the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in North Africa. According to the Spanish soldier who received him, he said he would rather die than have to return to Morocco.
The boy arrived alone and in tears. “He did not want to be sent back, he had no family in Morocco and he did not care about dying of the cold,” said Rachid Mohamed al Messaoui, 25.
“I have never heard anything like it from someone so young,” he added.
Soldiers accompanied the boy, along with other immigrants, to the gate of the security zone that separates the two countries. An army spokesperson said he did not know what happened to him afterward.
It is illegal to deport underage immigrants to Spain, and hundreds of them are in a temporary center in Ceuta.
The boy is one of 8,000 people who swam or climbed a fence to enter the enclave this week. Spain sent troops to patrol the area and help control the massive influx of immigrants.
With a population of 80,000 people, the enclave is a few hundred meters from the tip of the African country.
Monday (17), at least 2,700 illegal immigrants, including 1,000 minors, entered the territory, according to the Spanish government. It was a record for a single day.
Travelers arrived at sea by swimming, in floats or inflatable boats, and even on foot, when the tide permitted. Others tried to cross the land border, protected by a double fence.
The arrival of migrants in the enclave occurs in a context of tension between Spain and Morocco, due to the presence in the European country of the leader of the independence movement in Western Sahara.
The Moroccan government reacted with indignation to the news that the leader of the Polisario Front, Brahim Ghali, has been hospitalized since mid-April in a Spanish hospital for treatment for Covid-19.
The Polisario Front, backed by Algeria, has fought for decades for the independence of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony controlled mainly by Morocco, which wants to keep the region under its command.
Ceuta and Melilla, the other Spanish enclave in North Africa, are the European Union’s only land borders with Africa, making them two important entry points for irregular migrants looking for a better life.