Illegal migration to Spain drops in 2022

The number of migrants arriving illegally in Spain dropped by more than a quarter in 2022 over the previous year, mainly due to a fall in sea crossings, the Interior Ministry said Tuesday.

Illegal migration to Spain drops in 2022
A boat used by migrants stranded in the Strait of Gibraltar remains empty at the end of a rescue operation by the Salvamento Maritimo sea search and rescue agency. Photo: Marcos Moreno/AFP

A total of 31,219 people entered Spain without permission last year, down from 41,945 in 2021 — a drop of 25.6 percent and a second straight yearly decline, the ministry said in its annual migration report.

The Interior Ministry credited “cooperation with countries of origin and transit” of migrants, and the reinforcement of the fight “against mafias that traffic people” for the fall.

Migrant arrivals by sea decreased across the country but the most significant fall occurred in Spain’s Canary Islands in the Atlantic off northwest Africa.

The number of migrants who arrived by sea in the archipelago fell to 15,682 in 2022 from 22,316 in the previous year, about 30 percent less.

The Atlantic route from West Africa to the Canary Islands had been increasingly used by migrant smugglers since the end of 2019 after safer routes to Europe in the Mediterranean were closed.

Boats have headed to the Canaries from Morocco or even Mauritania, Senegal or further afield, increasing the risk of the crossing.

But migrant arrivals by land in Spain’s two North African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla jumped by 24.1 percent in 2022 over the previous year to reach 2,289.

The two tiny territories have the European Union’s only land borders with Africa.

In June around 2,000 migrants stormed the high fence that seals off Melilla from Morocco, according to Spanish authorities, and engaged in a two-hour skirmish with border officers.

The death toll — at least 23 according to Morocco, at least 37 according to Amnesty and independent experts — was the worst in years of attempted migrant crossings into Melilla and Ceuta.

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Spanish police arrest 43 in crackdown on migrant worker exploitation

Spanish police said Thursday they have broken up a criminal group that exploited undocumented migrant workers in the agricultural sector, mainly from Morocco, and sold them false documents.

Spanish police arrest 43 in crackdown on migrant worker exploitation

Officers arrested 43 people in the southern province of Malaga suspected of belonging to the ring, which charged illegal migrants up to 3,000 euros ($3,200) for fake work contracts to allow them to regularise their status, police said in a statement.

“Some of the migrants were housed in inhumane conditions in houses belonging to the organisation,” it added.

A video released by police showed a cramped room with decrepit walls and a small single bed that was used to house migrants.

At least seven agricultural firms are believed to have taken part in the scheme dedicated to the “labour exploitation” of Moroccan nationals, the statement added.

Spain is a key gateway into Europe for illegal migration from Africa although arrival numbers decreased last year.

A total of 31,219 people entered Spain without permission last year, mainly by boat from Morocco — a drop of 25.6 percent over 2021, according to interior ministry figures.

About 800,000 Moroccans legally live in Spain, making it the biggest foreign population in the country, according to national statistics institute INE figures.

Migrant workers face a higher risk of forced labour than other workers, according to the UN International Labour Organization (ILO).

“The forced labour prevalence of adult migrant workers is more than three times higher than that of adult non-migrant workers,” it wrote in a September 2022 report.