Morocco and Spain dismantle smuggling rings leading to drop in migrant arrivals

The number of irregular migrants arriving in Spain from Morocco has dropped by half this year due to the two countries’ joint effort at dismantling smuggling networks.

According to a report from the International Organization for Migration (IOM),  820 migrants arrived in Spain in April, compared with over 1, 700 in the same period in 2018.

The Moroccan authorities have been stepping up their efforts to dismantle smuggling networks which are putting migrants’ lives at risk. On 2 May 2019, Moroccan authorities arrested five suspected members of a smuggling network which was operating off the northern coast of Morocco. The authorities seized a large amount of money and smuggling equipment, including a large number of vehicles and rubber boats used to transport migrants to Spain.

Among the suspected smugglers was a driver thought to have a role in facilitating irregular migration. He was arrested while transporting five migrants from sub-Saharan Africa to the northern coast of Morocco.

Spain also dismantled a highly connected international smuggling network which is responsible for smuggling around 350 migrants through Morocco to Europe. The migrants paid the smugglers up to EUR 20, 000 for their unguaranteed and unsafe journey to Europe, according to the Spanish authorities.

Spanish police stated that the operation to dismantle the criminal ring was only possible with the help of Europol, the EU Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation, and the Moroccan intelligence services.  More than EUR 18, 000 was seized during the operation as well as a large number of fraudulent travel documents.

The Morocco-Spain route has become the main entry point to Europe for irregular migrants after Italy halted rescue operations in the Central Mediterranean and Libyan coastguards stepped up patrols to intercept migrants.

In 2018, more than half of the 110,000 migrants who made it to Europe through the Mediterranean used the Morocco-Spain route. This surge pushed Spain and Morocco to launch joint measures to deter irregular migration and crackdown on people smuggling networks.

TMP – 09/05/2019

Photo credit: Shutterstock /  Riccardo Nastasi

Photo caption: Abandoned migrant boat