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-Spain and Morocco“s rocky diplomatic relations


Migrants run towards the fence separating Morocco from Spain, after thousands of migrants swam across the border, in Ceuta, Spain, May 19, 2021. REUTERS/Jon Nazca/File Photo

Spain and Morocco’s first bilateral summit in eight years on Thursday sees the countries seek to strengthen economic ties and build on a diplomatic truce reached last year after disputes over migration and territory.

Following is a timeline of events:

– Sept. 2005: Spain deploys troops to Ceuta and Melilla after about 600 migrants attempt to breach border fences. At least 11 migrants are killed and hundreds injured.

– Feb. 6, 2015: Fifteen migrants drown and more are injured as 400 people attempt to reach Ceuta by swimming around a seawall from Morocco. A judge in Ceuta later dismisses a case brought against 18 Spanish Civil Guards who fired rubber bullets at them.

– May 17-19, 2021: About 8,000 people swim into Ceuta or clamber over the border fence after Moroccan authorities appear to loosen controls.

The surge in crossings comes days after Rabat expresses anger over Madrid’s decision to allow Ibrahim Ghali, the leader of a rebel movement, into Spain for COVID-19 treatment. Ghali leads the Polisario Front which seeks independence for Western Sahara, a territory Rabat regards as its own.

– March 18, 2022: Morocco reveals that Spain has changed its position on Western Sahara, describing Rabat’s autonomy plan for the territory as “the most serious, realistic and credible” basis for solving the dispute.

– April 7, 2022: Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez travels to Rabat to meet Moroccan King Mohammed VI to mark a “new phase in relations based on mutual respect, mutual trust, permanent consultation and frank and faithful cooperation”.

– May 15, 2022: Interior ministers of Spain and Morocco reactivate their working group and agree to foster cooperation against illegal migration including through joint border patrols and an intensified crackdown on trafficking networks.

– June 24, 2022: Some 2,000 migrants storm border fences from the Moroccan town of Nador into Melilla in an incident that authorities say saw 23 migrants die in a crush and when a fence collapsed.

Human rights group Amnesty International said at least 37 people died and 77 were missing, and condemned Moroccan and Spanish authorities for using “unlawful and lethal force” and failing to provide prompt medical assistance to the injured.

Spain’s ombudsman said 470 of the migrants who managed to cross into Spain were sent back over the border immediately in what it said was a violation of international law.