A rift over illegal immigration widened between Madrid and Rabat Wednesday, August 22, after the Spanish government accused Morocco of failing to cooperate after 800 migrants landed on its shores last weekend.
Javier Garrigues, representing Spain's foreign ministry, told the Moroccan Charge d'Affaires in Madrid, Abdalkadir Muslih, that Rabat "was not doing enough" to stem the flow of illegal immigrants into Spain, diplomatic sources said. But the Moroccan press has hit back, saying that Madrid is unfairly blaming Rabat and has replied to Spanish criticisms by accusing Madrid of racism and intolerance.
Wednesday's diplomatic meeting came after Madrid summoned the Moroccan ambassador to Spain, Baraka Abdaslam, to answer Spanish concerns over the rising tide of immigrants. Abdaslam was reportedly on holiday.
The latest spat comes a day after Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Pique protested to Morocco expressing his serious concern over the number of Moroccans trying to enter southern Spain across the Straits of Gibraltar after the weekend's record haul of illegal immigrants.
The 14-kilometer (8.5 mile) stretch of water that separates Europe and Africa is a favorite crossing point for those desperate to find employment in Europe. "We must insist that Morocco makes more of a commitment and it is important that it shows a greater willingness to cooperate on this issue," Pique said.
Diplomatic sources said that Garrigues told the Moroccan Charge d'Affaires that Spain had taken considerable steps to control the flow of illegal immigrants and once again suggested Madrid and Rabat cooperate to combat the problem.
But amid signs that the debate is rapidly escalating into a row, Moroccan newspaper Al-Ahdath Al-Maghribia said Wednesday that Spain was making Rabat a scapegoat, revealing the "racist and defamatory" attitudes of certain Spanish politicians.
Socialist party newspaper Liberation meanwhile said that Madrid could do more to help the economic development of countries to help solve the poverty that causes so many people to flee north Africa.
Al-Bayan, meanwhile, said that Morocco was doing all it could with its limited resources to stem the flow of immigration towards Spain, but insisted that Europe had not honored its commitment to a two billion dollar (€2.17 billion) fund to tackle the problem.
The paper said that the conservative Spanish government of Jose Maria Aznar was under strong pressure from far-right wingers to clamp down on illegal immigration. Pique, quoted on Tuesday by Spanish agency Europa Press, said that the tide of immigration was unsustainable and said that Madrid was seriously concerned over the issue.
Over 8,500 illegal immigrants have been stooped trying to enter Spain so far this year — over double the number of people detained in the same period last year, Spanish newspaper El Pais reported. ― (AFP, Madrid)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )