Hugh Fitzgerald: Spanish Socialists, Mugged By Reality, Reverse Their Immigration Policy


When the Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez assumed office last May, he soon showed that, while other countries in Europe were tightening their immigration policies, open-hearted Spain would be doing the opposite. He soon had a chance to demonstrate his country’s generosity. In mid-June, Italy, enforcing the new strict policy on immigration of Mario Salvini, the Minister of the Interior, turned away the rescue ship Aquarius with 630 sub-Saharan Africans aboard. Spain promptly allowed the ship, escorted by two vessels of the Spanish navy, to land at Valencia, and the migrants to disembark. Since May, this policy has continued, with an average of 230 African (and some North African) migrants entering Spanish territory from Africa each day. Some 26,000 have come by sea, smuggled in on small boats, or picked up from unseaworthy vessels by European rescue ships who deliver them to Spanish ports. Others have taken a land route, through Morocco. Once they are in Morocco, they then attempt to enter the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla that, though surrounded by Moroccan territory, have been Spanish since 1415. As soon as these migrants manage to set foot on the soil of either enclave, they are legally in Spain, and cannot be deported under current rules, but are taken to the Spanish mainland to have their requests for asylum assessed.

These migrants, hoping to be recipients of all the benefits that European welfare states offer, stop at nothing in their attempt to enter these enclaves. Mobs of hundreds attack the Spanish guards protecting the security fences, throwing plastic receptacles at them filled with feces, blood, battery acid, and quicklime. Some have had homemade flame throwers. Many guards have been wounded in these attacks, some seriously. The Spanish government this summer declared its intention both to reduce the height of the fence — now six meters — and to remove the barbed wire on top, lest too many migrants be wounded in attempting to climb over it. This ludicrous policy seems, fortunately, not to have been carried out.

During these last few months, the migrants allowed in have been behaving just as they did in trying to enter Spain. They are almost all young men, and extremely violent. Their attacks on the guards at Ceuta have become an embarrassment for Prime Minister Sanchez. And suddenly, just a few months after the Spanish government was expected to open its doors even wider under its new socialist government, and appeared at first to be doing so, it has put that policy in reverse.

After one of the attacks at Ceuta in late August, the Spanish government ordered the mass expulsion of 166 sub-Saharan Africans who had forced their way through the barbed wire fences and attacked guards.

Humanitarianism is not permissiveness,” said Spanish interior minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska before a parliamentary hearing on Wednesday[August 22].”Orderly, secure and legal immigration is possible, but not violent migration that threatens our country and its security forces.”

Confronted with these outrages, the Socialist government has changed course. Not only has the extreme violence and sense of entitlement of these so-called asylum seekers — “asylum from what?,” one may well wonder — shaken the Spanish, but they now realize that many of the migrants come with plans to continue on, once they have been granted asylum by Spain, to northern Europe where benefits are better (these migrants are in no hurry to find work), and this has caused other EU governments to complain about Spain’s relatively open border policies. It is not only Spain that has been harmed by its immigration policies, but all the members of the E.U. French President Emmanuel Macron recently ordered the deportation of large numbers of African migrants who had crossed into his country from Spain.

Within days of the Ceuta border assault on August 22, Spanish police rounded up 166 migrants from a shelter in Ceuta and drove them back across the border to Morocco, invoking a special extradition agreement negotiated between the two governments 25 years ago and which had rarely been implemented before. Throwing feces, blood, acid, and quicklime at the police, while on Moroccan soil, constitutes criminal behavior for which such extradition is fitting.

Naturally, the Spanish hard left, the “United We Can” Party, has accused Sanchez of violating human rights and of breaking his promises of a more compassionate policy toward immigrants. Sanchez, remember, had demonstrated his new policy, beginning in mid-June, by welcoming migrants arriving on ships (including rescue ships and smugglers’ crafts) turned away from Italy, France, and Malta. As for the security fences around Ceuta and Melilla, Sanchez had promised to remove the razor-sharp concertina wire attached to the border fences as requested by various human rights organizations.

But Sanchez, and his government, have been mugged by reality. Instead of removing barbed-wire from the security fences around Ceuta and Melilla, they have strengthened border defenses:

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Quoting the International Organization for Migration, conservative opposition leader Pablo Casado said immigration to Spain had tripled since the new government took office in June. He said authorities were taking emergency measures to strengthen border defenses that had been previously rejected by the socialists.

Spain’s daily newspaper El Mundo reported that angry calls from chiefs of the militarized Guardia Civil who threatened to resign if drastic measures were not taken to counter the attack on border units, forced the government’s hand.

Particularly unsettling were two assaults by these would-be migrants. The first took place on July 24, when more than 600 migrants stormed the guards at Ceuta, then cut their way through, or climbed their way over, the security fence, into “Spain.’

A retired Civil Guard general who acts as a top advisor to the interior ministry, speaking anonymously, told VOA the gendarme forces were already strained in southern Spain.

We have to start removing some these people and prevent too many more from getting here,” he said.

While last month’s forced entry at Ceuta was the most dramatic and violent experienced until now, it was not the first and could initiate a trend of even more serious future attacks, according to security analysts.

And, in fact, there have been other attempts to force their entry into Ceuta since, involving large numbers of attackers, as on August 22, where more than a hundred Africans, employing the same tactics (throwing acid, feces, blood, quicklime at the Spanish guards to hold them back), and using cutting tools, managed to make holes in the security fence:

Grande-Marlaska said the group that broke through the fence displayed a high degree of organization. The interior minister said they used cutting tools, improvised weapons and coordinated tactics by which shock units held back police to open holes through which hundreds of others slipped through the fence.

Police arrested 10 more immigrants on August 23 and authorities accused of them of leading the attacks against the Guardia Civil. Officials said the group’s ringleader is of Togolese origin and had experience in his country’s armed forces, including some paramilitary training.

The Spanish authorities back in May originally held out the promise of more lenient treatment for those attempting to enter Spain. They took in 630 migrants on the rescue ship Aquarius in mid-June, and continued to let vessels arrive — whether those of the smugglers or those of the rescue ships. 26,000 migrants from Africa have arrived in Spain by sea so far this year.

For some reason, this increase has appeared to have surprised the Spanish authorities. But what did they expect, having semaphored their intentions? Since May, whether they arrived by land or by sea, the numbers of those arriving have tripled over the same period last year. The violent behavior of these migrants in storming Ceuta, and the sickening men they have employed in attacking the Civil Guards, has enraged (and nauseated) both the Spanish authorities and the Spanish people. The videos of these “asylum seekers” screaming in glee as they finally set foot in Spain has also been off-putting. Instead of the quiet dignity of sober asylum seekers, fleeing persecution, these economic migrants have arrived in Spain purely for the loot, that is, for all the benefits that the state, they think, will provide them, and what’s more, they can now move more easily from Spain to richer states in the E.U., such as Germany and Sweden, where the benefits are greater still.

That’s why the Spanish, having had their very short-lived and deeply disturbing encounter with large numbers of African (and North African) migrants, are now swiftly reversing course. Expect them to refortify, rather than weaken, the borders around Ceuta and Melilla, and to continue to extradite to Morocco, as permitted by a little-used treaty, any of those migrants who have committed violent acts while attempting to breach the Spanish security fences.

Spain is not the first European country to be mugged by the effects of the mass immigration by non-Western peoples, including Muslims. But it’s an example that especially heartens, because if even the Socialists show themselves willing to shut the very doors that they made a point, so recently, of flinging open to such immigrants, there is hope that Europe itself can come to its senses.

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