MELILLA, Morocco — On May 30, 2014, Spanish police arrested six men who had allegedly recruited and sent 26 radical Islamic fighters to terrorist groups in Syria, Mali and Libya. These arrests were made in the Spanish enclave of Melilla on Morocco’s north coast. They come after a terror cell in Spain and Morocco was disbanded by security forces in both countries in March.
The terrorist cell was considered to be among the most active in Europe. The breakup of the terrorist cell coincided with the 10-year anniversary of the 2004 Madrid train bombings in which multiple Moroccan immigrants were implicated, 190 people were murdered and 1,800 more were injured.
Ten years after that attack, Spain and the rest of the European Union are still grappling with illegal immigration and the potential for terrorism it brings. The Madrid commuter train bombings sent shockwaves through the European community and, coming less than three years after the September 11 attacks in the United States, renewed the threat of terrorism in the western world.
Two days before the six men were arrested, hundreds of migrants made their way into Melilla. They barged past the razor wire barrier which collapsed under pressure and entered Spain via one of the few land routes into Europe. They will most likely be housed and fed in the town’s temporary migration center, though this center is already severely overpopulated. Over the past few years, Spain and other southern European countries have been inundated by the arrival of immigrants from Northern Africa and the Middle East.
The response to the immigrants, who often make their way across the Mediterranean Sea on ill-equipped fishing boats, has grown increasingly terse as Europe continues to deal with the after-effects of the 2008 global financial crisis. Spain and Italy in particular have called on their northern European counterparts to shoulder some of the burden of their increasing immigrant populations.
The American Foreign Policy Magazine recently ranked Morocco as the third best Arab destination for profitable investment and the 42nd best of the 112 countries assessed.
In 2013, Morocco’s economy grew at a positive rate of 4.5 percent. The per capita income of Moroccan citizens has increased from $1,500 to $4,500 in the last decade. Still, the prospect of the western world which Europe epitomizes seems a better option for many who chose to leave despite discouraging factors like the nearly 26 percent employment rate in Spain.
As immigration to Europe has increased, so have anti-immigration leanings. These attitudes have been aided by dismal economic prospects and the reality of a slow recovery from financial ruin. However, as turmoil in northern Africa continues, so will the migration of its citizens. The humanity in their reception remains the pressing issue.