The unfolding events we are seeing in Ceuta are not a “migratory crisis” [originally posted on May 18th]. It is an event encouraged and organized by the Moroccan state. We are not facing a refugee tragedy but a happening serving as political pressure in the context of the imperialist conflict between Spain and Morocco. A conflict that is becoming increasingly dangerous.
Table of Contents
- Ceuta is not facing a “migratory crisis”
- Green March or mock?
- The source of all this
- The Spanish response
- The real danger: a growing horizon of conflict on Europe’s southern border
Ceuta is not facing a “migratory crisis”
Over 6,000 people, according to the Interior Ministry, crossed the Ceuta border yesterday by skirting the Tarajal breakwater or swimming across to Benzú beach. This morning, with the army and the Civil Guard deployed, the scenes repeated themselves: Morocco accepted the hot returns only to encourage them again to repeat the move. Immediate headline in the peninsular Spanish press: migratory crisis.
But it is clear that despite the hysterical reaction of part of the Spanish press, we are not facing any migratory crisis: the local press reported today that there were no significant groups of Sahelian migrants at the fence.
Although we have not been able to verify this and have doubts about the details – in this region the fake news started in Homeric time – residents of Castillejos and other nearby towns were talking yesterday of buses and trucks carrying hundreds of young people coming from the south of the country and urging the local youth to join them.
In reality, one need only look at the images of the Ceuta media to realize that this is essentially a mass of Moroccan youths encouraged by the Makhzen to embark on the adventure of their lives. Some neighbors of Ceuta told this morning that groups of these kids and some families who took part in yesterday’s crossing were going to the stores this morning looking to buy goods that are scarce or too expensive for a working family in Morocco. Again: nothing like any migratory crisis episode we’ve seen before.
Green March or mock?
Among the Ceuta petty bourgeoisie, which carries the perennial fear of being abandoned by the central government and of annexation by Morocco, what awoke yesterday on the lips of half the city was the ghost of the Green March.
There are fundamental differences however: to begin with this movement did not start with a call from the Moroccan Royal House nor with a call for patriotic mobilization by the Makhzen parties. On the contrary, the front pages of Assabah and Le Matin this morning complained about the German hostility against Morocco, reported the upcoming congress on Cannabis in Tangier… but not a word about Ceuta or Spain… And of course, the public television newscast this morning also feigned dementia.
The discreetness of the Makhzen’s propaganda apparatus about the alleged migratory crisis and the playful mood of those who crossed indicates rather that it is a gesture, a signal in the form of a simulacrum of the path the Moroccan state wants to make the Spanish state believe it is ready to undertake. And therein lies the danger.
The source of all this
As we reported yesterday, Spain and Morocco have been in a crescendo of imperialist tensions for months. At the heart of which is the international recognition of the Moroccan status of Western Sahara and consequently Spain’s – and Germany’s – alliances with Algeria, Rabat’s closest regional rival.
The gas contracts signed by Sánchez with Algeria were inevitably accompanied by a reversal in the evolution of Spain’s position on the Sahara, which tended toward recognition of the region as part of Morocco if the Makhzen granted it autonomous status. Morocco responded with the opening of the Canary Islands crossing from the Sahara, which produced a real migratory crisis, which incidentally allowed Morocco to release tensions in the face of mass unemployment and hunger of the workers in the region’s sweatshops.
After the recognition of the Sahara as part of Morocco by the United States, Algeria revived the armed conflict through the Polisario and Spain maneuvered to revive the role of the UN as part of its commitments to Algiers. To top it off, the Moroccan secret services leaked to the press that the Spanish government picked up and gave medical assistance to the dictator-for-life of the phantom Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic maintained by Algeria out of the 150,000 refugees/prisoners it keeps on its soil under Polisario control. As expected, the attitude of the Makhzen bureaucracy towards Spanish imperialism could only get worse.
The main Moroccan response has been to let the economic crisis suffocate Spanish companies and capital in Morocco by closing their access to contracts and public financing. But, seeing the stubbornness of the Spanish foreign ministry, Rabat had been warning for weeks that it was willing to go further:
According to sources close to the Moroccan Executive, three scenarios have come to be handled by way of retaliation: a brake on Spanish investments in major infrastructure and tourism projects that Morocco has underway; the official claim of sovereignty over Ceuta, Melilla and even the Canary Islands; and in some more radical circles there is even talk of a state of war with SpainLa Información, 16/5/2021
The Spanish response
Yesterday and today the Spanish foreign minister, González Laya, feigned dementia declaring that the situation was not the result of a misunderstanding with Morocco and proclaiming an absent normality. The Interior Minister immediately promised to send police reinforcements and deportations in coordination with Morocco and a few minutes ago insisted that it was a migratory crisis of complex causes. Spanish public television, in aid of ministerial cynicism, quickly pointed to the impact of the economic crisis in northern Morocco.
But the government has not been alone in playing blind eye. Pablo Casado, leader of the PP, and his spokesman Almeida, mayor of Madrid, as well as Inés Arrimadas, of Ciudadanos, insisted on presenting what was happening as a migratory crisis.
Podemos has not been much closer to reality even despite pointing at the Moroccan state and its instrumentalization of the facts, presenting those who crossed the fence as if they were Sahelian refugees and thus adding to the narrative of a non-existing migratory crisis. to say about Vox and their Stalinist competitors in militarist nationalism, are installed in the delirious fantasy of the invasion that the petty bourgeoisie and the local chieftains like so much and that the President of Ceuta repeated today on the radio of the Catholic bishops.
Sánchez however has canceled today’s planned trip to Paris and will appear after the Council of Ministers to address the country. He knows that Morocco would not make such moves if it did not perceive a critical weakness of both Spanish imperialism as a whole and its government. This explains the tweet he sent out this morning in which he addresses the people of Ceuta promising them the utmost firmness to ensure their security and defend their integrity as part of the country in the face of any challenge.
The real danger: a growing horizon of conflict on Europe’s southern border
Morocco is not going to invade Ceuta, Melilla or the Canary Islands. Nor is there a massive migratory crisis or a desire to migrate en masse in northern Morocco, however serious the situation of the local workers and peasantry may be. And no, this is not a new Green March even if it is reminiscent of its context. It is nothing more than a simulacrum and extremely measured in its scope. For example, it being limited to the border with Ceuta without affecting Melilla is no coincidence.
By means of this performance the Moroccan Makhzen wants to make it clear to the Spanish government that it can become a destabilizing factor capable of generating a crisis of state in Spain at the most inconvenient moment for internal governability… and to Germany and the European powers that it has the capacity to generate real migratory crises.