Two people have been arrested on the border of the North African Spanish enclave of Ceuta after customs officials discovered two illegal migrants hidden in a car and another concealed in a woman’s luggage.
According to spokesperson for the Guardia Civil, border officers found a young African man curled up in the foetal position in a large suitcase being pushed on a trolley by a woman attempting to cross the border from Morocco.
The woman reportedly attracted the attention of customs officials after she tried to avoid security checks. The Gabonese teenager was taken away for immediate medical attention, while the 22-year-old woman was arrested.
Separately, border guards discovered two migrants from Guinea hidden in specially-made false compartments in a car attempting to cross into Ceuta from Morocco. One man was found concealed in an adapted rear seat, while a woman had been hidden in the vehicle’s dashboard.
Both migrants were given first aid after suffering breathing difficulties while confined to their hiding places. The driver of the vehicle, a 30-year-old Moroccan man who fixed fake registration plates to a car stolen in Barcelona for the attempted people smuggling plot, was arrested at the scene.
On New Year’s Day, more than 1,000 migrants stormed a border fence in an attempt to enter Ceuta. Only two managed to successfully scale the six-metre construction, both of whom required hospital treatment after doing so.
Border guards used cranes to remove the migrants from the fence, in an operation that resulted in scores of Spanish and Moroccan police sustaining injuries as would-be asylum seekers wielded metal bars and rocks as they attempted to cross the border. According to officials, one officer lost an eye during the chaos.
In a statement, Morocco’s interior ministry said: “From now on those making such attempts will be presented before the competent judicial authorities who will decree their expulsion from the kingdom [of Morocco] or heavier penalties, according the gravity of the act.”
Migrants regularly target Ceuta as an entry point to Europe, either attempting to climb the enclave’s border fence of swim into its waters from Morocco. At the beginning of December, hundreds of African migrants managed to force their way through Ceuta’s barbed-wired border protection, many of whom were taken to a detention centre to have their appeal for asylum heard by the Spanish authorities.
The Spanish government has attracted criticism from human rights groups for turning migrants back to Morocco during incidents such as these.
In 2015, Human Rights Watch Senior Western Europe Researcher Judith Sunderland said: “Every year thousands of people risk their lives trying to reach Europe, and there is plenty of evidence to demonstrate that Spanish practices at its borders make those attempts even more dangerous.”