October 4, 2005

EU ready to help Spain, Morocco with migrant crisis

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union is ready to send
experts to Morocco to help solve a crisis sparked by thousands
of illegal immigrants trying to enter Spanish enclaves in North
Africa, the EU's top justice official said on Tuesday.

EU Justice and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini said
the bloc at the request of Spain would examine Morocco's border
control efforts and offer Rabat financial aid to deal with the

In return, he said, Morocco should agree to take back any
illegal immigrants who crossed its borders with the bloc.

"We are going to send the message to the Moroccans that
Europe stands ready to commit itself very quickly on the ground
as well, but Europe also requires a strong and clear commitment
on the part of Morocco," Frattini told a news conference.

He said the EU wanted Rabat to sign an agreement before the
end of this year to take back its illegal immigrants.

On Monday, some 650 migrants from sub-Saharan states
stormed a border fence around Spain's enclave of Melilla and
about 350 managed to get over when the fence collapsed.

Some 135 people were injured, including seven police
officers or soldiers, in the fourth mass attempt to enter the
two Spanish enclaves in North Africa. Last week five Africans
died during an assault of the border fence at Ceuta.

On Monday, Morocco and four other North African states said
they would try to stop illegal immigrants attempting to get to
Europe but that they needed more aid from the EU.

The Maghreb states, which include Algeria, Libya,
Mauritania and Tunisia, said sub-Saharan Africa needed
development aid to create jobs so that people remained rather
than tried to get to Europe.

Frattini said the EU experts would be leaving for Morocco
"in a matter of days" and that the bloc was also working on
getting money released from a 40 million euro fund set up to
help Morocco beef up border controls.

Morocco has recently deployed more police and troops to
deter illegal migrants. Moroccan authorities said they have
detained hundreds of illegal migrants, mostly sub-Sahara
Africans, in the past weeks.