by H. Haverstock, The Chicago Times

August 14, 2021

MADRID — After reaching an agreement with Rabat, Spain began sending hundreds of Moroccan youths who crossed into its North African enclave of Ceuta in May back to Morocco on Friday, according to Spanish media, signaling an improvement in relations after a long row.

According to sources in Ceuta, the minors are already being transported to Morocco in small groups in vans from a sports complex that has been converted into a makeshift reception center.  Officials from the foreign and interior ministries, as well as the Ceuta regional administration, could not be reached immediately.

Morocco and Spain are embroiled in a dispute sparked by Spain’s admission of Western Sahara independence movement leader Brahim Ghali for medical treatment without informing Rabat, resulting in a migration crisis in Ceuta.

The vast majority of the 10,000 migrants who entered Ceuta were immediately returned to Morocco, but 700 unaccompanied minors remained in the enclave.

The influx was widely interpreted as retaliation for Spain’s decision to take in Ghali quietly, who returned to Algeria in June after spending more than a month in a Spanish hospital.  Morocco considers Western Sahara to be a part of its own territory.

The Polisario Front, which is backed by Algeria, wants an independent state in the territory where Spain was colonial ruler until 1975.