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Over 6,000 Moroccans cross Spanish border in Ceuta in record influx

Moroccan migrants climb a rocky cliffside as a policeman watches in the northern town of Fnideq, near Spain's North African enclave of Ceuta.   -  
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FADEL SENNA/AFP or licensors

Spain

Spain is currently facing a humanitarian and diplomatic crisis after thousands of Moroccans took advantage of relaxed border controls to reach the Spanish territory of Ceuta.

By Tuesday morning, around 6,000 people had crossed the border using inflatable boats or simply swimming into European territory, in what Spanish officials say is an record influx of migrants on the Spain's North African enclave of Ceuta.

Even though Spain has deployed reinforcements to its territory, migrants are still seen crossing the border at noon.

"I came here to cross illegally in order to secure my son's future because here in Tetouan there is nothing. As you may have noticed, this is a tourist town. We are going out to cross: either I'll die or I'll cross" declared Ouarda, a Moroccan mother of two, divorced and unemployed.

In the early hours of Tuesday, hundreds more men and women of all ages flocked to the Fnideq border post to try their luck at the crossing.

They walked down a path to the beach in their dozens, before running towards Ceuta along the coastline, as a handful of Moroccan policemen watched on without intervening.

"I saw on Facebook that it was possible to cross the border, so I took a taxi here with my friend as I can't feed my family anymore," 26-year-old Ouarda, from the neighbouring town of Tetouan, told AFP.

"When you have nothing (no money) to spend, you have to pay your rent and you have to take care of your children and parents, there is no room for fear," Ouarda adds.

A fourth of the migrants are minors - Spain

Spanish authorities have said some 2,700 people amongst those who reached Ceuta are thought to be teenagers.

The lack of job opportunities, and the poor conditions in Morocco have prompted many to risk it all crossing the border.

"I'm not afraid. If I stayed here I would be afraid. I have to leave to save myself", insists Mohammed, a Moroccan rapper who crossed the border.

Videos posted on social media showed dozens of migrants - some wearing just beachwear but others clad in normal outdoor clothes - setting off from rocky beachheads.

Some people also tried to go over the mountain that overhangs the beach.

"They stopped me from getting through, but I'm going to try again," said one 26-year-old jobseeker.

Spain and the EU express concerns

The Spanish government said it had already deported 1,500 migrants back to Morocco.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who was supposed to join the Paris summit on financing African economies, decided to cancel his trip at the last minute, in order to focus on the situation.

The Spanish interior ministry said "immediate reinforcements of the civil guard presence and national police" would be sent to Ceuta, totalling 200 additional officers.

It added that "Spanish and Moroccan authorities have recently reached an agreement concerning the return to their home country of Moroccan citizens arriving on the beach" at Ceuta, and that authorities from the two sides were in "permanent" contact.

EU commisionner Ylva Johansson has urged Morocco to prevent further "illegal crossings" to Spain's Ceuta, saying the influx of migrants was worrying.

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