By AFP

Spain’s Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska on Friday called for deportations of migrants — suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic — to resume, after meeting his counterpart in Morocco.

Arrivals of migrants have soared in Spain’s Canary Islands, off the west coast of Morocco, with more than 18,000 arriving from Africa so far this year, more than 10 times the number seen in the same period of 2019, according to Spanish interior ministry data.

Grande-Marlaska, who met with Moroccan Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit, ruled out the transfer of migrants to mainland Spain, a suggestion made earlier this week by local authorities in the Canary Islands.

Madrid’s policy will be to send back migrants “who are not eligible for international protection,” he said.

“Fighting against irregular immigration also means preventing illegal entry routes into Europe from being established,” Grande-Marlaska added.

Talks on Friday focused on issues of security, terrorism, organised crime and migration, especially in the Canaries.

The Canaries have seen a wave of arrivals since the tightening of controls in the Mediterranean, especially in the Straits of Gibraltar, which separates Morocco and Spain.

More and more are setting off into the rough Atlantic waters from southern Morocco, from the Western Sahara area controlled by Morocco, as well as Mauritania and Senegal.

In response to a question, Grande-Marlaska said recent tensions in the disputed Western Sahara had “nothing to do” with the flow of migrants to the Canaries.

“These are issues that have absolutely no connection,” he said.