More than 8,000 people swam into Ceuta or clambered over the border fence in May 2021 after Moroccan authorities appeared to loosen controls for a couple of days, prompting Spain to deploy troops and extra police. Spain deployed troops to Ceuta 18 May 2021 to patrol the border with Morocco after thousands of migrants swam into the northern African enclave, in what Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called a serious crisis for Spain and Europe. Soldiers in armoured vehicles were guarding Ceuta's beach on Tuesday. Dozens of migrants swimming and wading close to the beach appeared to be moving away from where troops stood. Hundreds of other potential migrants stood on the Moroccan side of the fence that separates the Spanish enclave from Morocco. Videos shared online showed migrants entering Ceuta earlier, by swimming and by climbing over the fence, unimpeded by Moroccan authorities. Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said as many as 6,000 migrants, including about 1,500 minors, swam into Ceuta 17-18 May 2021. He said about 2,700 had already been sent back to Morocco.
The surge in arrivals comes at a time of increased tension between Spain and Morocco over the fate of Brahim Ghali, the leader of the Polisario Front, who is in hospital in Spain. The Polisario Front wants the Western Sahara to be an independent state rather than part of Morocco. Algeria, Morocco's regional rival, backs the Polisario Front.
At least 800 sub-Saharan African migrants stormed the border fence 01 Janaury 2017 between Morocco and Ceuta. Five Spanish and 50 Moroccan police were injured, ten seriously, as they clashed with migrants who tried to break through the fence using rocks and metal bars. The Spanish government said two of the migrants were allowed to enter Ceuta for treatment at a local hospital. The rest were returned to Morocco.
About 220 African migrants forced their way through a barbed wire fence into Spain's North African enclave of Ceuta on 31 October 2016, clashing with Spanish police who tried to prevent them from crossing the border with Morocco.
Ceuta and Melilla, tiny Spanish enclaves in coastal Morocco, are frequently used as entry points into Europe for African migrants, who are in search of a better life. Most who try to cross the border are apprehended and returned to Morocco. Those who succeed in making it over the fences are repatriated or let go. Thousands of others try to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean Sea, often in small boats unfit for the open sea.
The southern tip of Spain and the northern tip of Africa come close to touching at the Strait of Gibraltar. At the Strait’s narrowest point, only about 13 kilometers (8 miles) separate Spain from Morocco. The small Spanish enclave Ceuta occupies a narrow isthmus of land on the African side of the Strait of Gibraltar; the rest of the surrounding territory is Morocco. The isthmus and the city of Ceuta have been used as a military base since the Roman Empire occupied the area around AD 42; the city today supports a fort garrisoned by the Spanish army.
Ceuta is a Spanish Autonomous City located on the African coast along the Straits of Gibraltar, on the small Almina peninsula. The Mediterranean Sea lies to the north, east and south and it borders with Morocco to the west and southwest. The territory of Ceuta (19.48 km2) represents 0.0038 % of Spain’s total area, and is one of the two smallest autonomous regions, along with the Autonomous City of Melilla. Population figures published by the National Statistics Office for 1 January 2011 give Ceuta’s registered population as 82 376, which was 2.23 % higher year on year, with a population density of 4 228.75 inhabitants / km2. Over the last five years, Ceuta's population has increased by 7.54 %. Figures indicate that Ceuta has a young population, with 50.50 % under 35, of whom 40.68 % are under the age of 15. The aging index is 40.48 %, in other words, for every 100 people under the age of 20 there are nearly 40 aged 64 or more.
On 06 February 2014 at least 15 people died while trying to cross the border between Ceuta and Morocco. Over a few days, the numerous attempts to cross the barriers of Ceuta and Melilla showed the desperation of people crossing large parts of Africa in an attempt to reach Europe in order to have a better and more decent life. During the events of 6 February 2014 in Ceuta, the Spanish Civil Guard used riot control materials such as rubber balls and blank cartridges to stop several hundreds of people entering the city. People who tried to get into the city by swimming report that the Civil Guard fired on them in the water with riot control weapons.
These facts have been acknowledged by the Spanish Government's Delegate in Ceuta. This is yet another tragic episode to be added to previous ones in the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, along with the renewed use of razor wire on border fences. It would also seem that the Civil Guard breached Spanish law by handing the immigrants over to Moroccan police immediately after their detention. The practice of illegal refoulements of migrants at the border has been irrefutably demonstrated, in Ceuta as well as in Melilla. In violation of the Spanish legislation on foreigners and of the European Directive 2008/115/CE, the Spanish authorities escort migrants to the border with Morocco, without having previously analysed their situation, while many sub-Saharan people trying to cross the border are refugees, asylum seekers, and/or victims of human trafficking.
Ceuta (Arabic Sebta), a Spanish military post and seaport [and at one time convict station] on the north coast of Morocco, in 350 54' N., 5° 18' W. Pop. about 13,000. It is situated on a promontory connected with the mainland by a narrow isthmus. This promontory marks the south-eastern end of the straits of Gibraltar, which between Ceuta and Gibraltar have a width of 14 miles. The promontory terminates in a bold headland, the Montagne des Singes, with seven distinct peaks. Of these the highest is the Monte del Hacko, the ancient Abyla, one of the "Pillars of Hercules," which faces Gibraltar and rises 636 feet. above the sea. On the westernmost point—Almina, 476 ft. high—is a lighthouse with a light visible for 23 miles.
Ceuta consists of two quarters, the old town, covering the low ground of the isthmus, and the modern town, built on the hills forming the north and west faces of the peninsula. Between the old and new quarters and on the north side of the isthmus lies the port. The public buildings in the town, thoroughly Spanish in its character, are not striking: they include the cathedral (formerly a mosque), the governor's palace, the town hall, barracks, and the convict prison in the old convent of San Francisco.
Ceuta has been fortified seaward, the works being furnished with artillery intended to command the entrance to the Mediterranean. Landward are three lines of defence, the inner line stretching completely across the isthmus. These fortifications, which date from the time of the Portuguese occupation, were partly modernized in the late 19th Century. The citadel, El Hacho, built on the neck of the isthmus, dates from the 15th century. The garrison consisted [in 1910] of between 3000 and 4000 men, inclusive of a disciplinary corps of military convicts. Of the rest of the population about 2000 are civilian convicts; and there were colonies of Jews, negroes and Moors, the last including descendants of Moors transferred to Ceuta from Oran when Spain abandoned that city in 1796.
Ceuta occupies in part the site of a Carthaginian colony, which was succeeded by a Roman colony said to have been called Ad Striem Fratres and also Extlissa or Lissa Civitas. From the Romans the town passed to the Vandals and afterwards to Byzantium, the emperor Justinian restoring its fortifications in 535. In 618 the town, then known as Septan, fell into the hands of the Visigoths. It was the last stronghold in North Africa which held out against the Arabs. At that date (AD 711) the governor of the town was the Count Julian who, in revenge for the betrayal of his daughter by King Roderick of Toledo, invited the Arabs to cross the straits under Tarik and conquer Spain for Islam.
By the Arabs the town was called Cibta or Sebta, hence the Spanish form Ceuta. From the date of its occupation by the Arabs the town had a stormy history, being repeatedly captured by rival Berber and Spanish-Moorish dynasties. It became nevertheless an important commercial and industrial city, being noted for its brass ware, its trade in ivory, gold and slaves. It is said to have been the first place in the West where a paper manufactory was established. In 1415 the town was captured by the Portuguese under John I., among those taking part in the attack being Prince Henry the Navigator " and two of his brothers, who were knighted on the day following in the mosque (hastily dedicated as a Christian church).
Ceuta passed to Spain in 1580 on the subjugation of Portugal by Philip II, and was definitely assigned to the Spanish crown by the treaty of Lisbon in 1688. The town has been several times unsuccessfully besieged by the Moors — one siege, under Mulai Ismail, lasting twenty-six years (1694-1720). In 1810, with the consent of Spain, it was occupied by British troops under General Sir J. F. Frascr. The town was restored to Spain by the British at the close of the Napoleonic Wars. As the result of the war between Spain and Morocco in i860 the area of Spanish territory around the town was increased.
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