The port city of Santander will soon join the ranks of other cities and countries that have fortified themselves against migrants. And its situation is far from that of the two Spanish enclaves in Morocco, Ceuta and Melilla—it is the capital of Cantabria in northern Spain, a city far from the pressure of migration that is being felt in the south.
This pressure was very much in effect on Sunday, as more than 200 migrants entered Spanish territory in the city of Melilla in broad daylight and without any violence—although one of them died on the Spanish side during the march (according to the Spanish government, from a congenital lung anomaly). One other casualty was recorded on the Moroccan side. Meanwhile, hundreds of people are landing on the Andalusian coast every day (the Spanish Coast Guard, Salvamento Marítimo, rescued more than 500 on Monday alone).
Santander doesn’t have to deal with anywhere close to those numbers, but it still decided to erect a wall against the migrants—mainly Albanian, according to the port authorities—who are entering the port area without authorization and trying to board ships heading to the UK unnoticed. The nearby port of Bilbao, in the Basque region, is facing the same problem. The anti-immigrant wall will be 12 feet high and difficult to climb. According to Bilbao authorities, 568 migrants attempted to enter the port area this year, but only a handful managed to reach the British coast (four in July, and none over the past month).
The Sánchez government’s iron fist policy toward migrants is shown even clearer when we look at how the authorities are managing the situation in the south. The 55 migrants who entered Melilla on Sunday were immediately deported back to Morocco. The volunteer lawyers who rushed to help the newcomers did not even have time to talk to them, because the government had already prepared everything for expulsion, without them even having had the opportunity to be checked by a doctor: a process at the very limits of legality, which has been criticized by NGOs and international organizations, as well as by the Defensor del Pueblo (the Spanish office of the ombudsman).
It is not the first time that the Sánchez government has hurriedly expelled migrants back to Morocco without giving them time to apply for asylum. In August, this happened to 116 Africans who had arrived in Melilla. Indeed, this has been a regular practice ever since 2014 against the migrants who arrive on islands under Spanish sovereignty along the Moroccan coast. The last such event took place on Saturday: 24 people landed in the tiny archipelago of the Chafarinas islands and were immediately expelled.
This year, 43,500 refugees reached the Spanish coast, making Spain the country that is receiving the most migrants in all of Europe. Another 5,200 crossed the border around Ceuta and Melilla. In order to try to lower the number of arrivals, the European Commission has agreed to a short-term financing package for Morocco worth €140 million.