Morocco quashed 89,000 illegal migrants last year, the Interior Ministry said Thursday, as the country has become one of the main transit points for African migrants seeking to reach Europe.
The “migratory route” linking Morocco to Spain has been revived since Italy decided to close its ports to humanitarian relief vessels and the European Union has started to provide assistance to Libyan coasts.
While some migrants attempt to enter the Spanish enclave of Melilla and the neighboring Spanish territory of Ceuta, most migrants seek to reach the mainland by crossing the Strait of Gibraltar from northern Morocco on often unsuitable boats.
According to data from the Ministry of the Interior, the Moroccan authorities dismantled 229 smuggling groups in 2018.
Nearly 80 percent of the migrants intercepted last year were foreign nationals, the ministry said, and 29,715 migrants were rescued at sea.
Speaking at a press conference in Rabat on Thursday, the High Representative for European Diplomacy, Federica Mogherini, said that the EU had already transferred 30 million euros out of the 140 million pledged in Morocco to help her to fight against clandestine migration.