the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, assists Spain in dealing with
various types of cross-border crime, including people smuggling, as well as
trafficking of drugs, weapons and cigarettes. Frontex supports the national
authorities with border control and surveillance, identification and
registration and its ships and airplanes contribute to search and rescue
situation on the Western Mediterranean Route to Spain
area stretching between Spain and Morocco, known as the Western Mediterranean
route, has long been used by migrants. For many years, it has also been the main
route used by criminal networks to smuggle narcotics into the EU.
cooperation between Spain, Morocco and Algeria and their active role in border
surveillance is an important factor for the control of the migratory flows in
the Western Mediterranean Sea.
this year, there has been a steady increase in irregular migration from the
African continent, especially from West Africa.
main reasons for this increase is the instability in the countries of origin
and transit. Despite the increasing smuggling prices this year, the Western
Mediterranean Route is still more affordable compared with other maritime
routes. An important factor in this context is also the short distance between
the departure points and the Spanish shores. The recent use of powerful speed
boats (usually involved in hashish smuggling), which can transport large
numbers of migrants in a shorter time, could be another reason in the
increasing number of arrivals. In addition, the dismantling of makeshift
migrant camps in Morocco and Algeria might act as a ‘push factor’ in displacing
migrants to other areas.
presence of a large West African diaspora in Europe and the remittances sent by
migrants to their families back home are some of the many pull factors.
Relatives or friends who have made the crossing often provide contacts of
trustworthy smugglers in the departure countries.
decade ago, the vast majority of migrants traveling from Morocco to Spain were
typically economic migrants from Algeria and Morocco, hoping to find jobs in
Europe. Since then, they have increasingly been joined by sub-Saharan Africans,
driven northwards by conflicts in Mali, Sudan, Cameroon, Nigeria, Chad and the
Central African Republic. In the first quarter of this year, the number of
illegal border crossings detected in the Western Mediterranean almost tripled
compared with the same period last year, seeing the highest migrations flow on
this route since 2009. Migrants from the Ivory Coast, Guinea and Gambia
accounted for the highest number of arrivals.
main challenges for border control also include combatting different types of
cross-border crime and the expansion of terrorist activities in Northern
Africa. As part of its support to the Spanish authorities in addressing
these challenges, Frontex currently deploys in Spain more than 180 officers
from several European countries who assist with border checks, help register
migrants and collect information on criminal smuggling networks, which is
shared with national authorities and Europol in support of criminal
investigations. They also provide support in identifying vulnerable migrants,
such as victims of trafficking, including those in need of international
protection. Finally, Frontex also helps Spanish authorities to seize drugs,
weapons and cigarettes.
from Sub-Saharan Africa to departure areas
West Africa, most migrants head to Algeria and Morocco via Agadez, Niger’s
largest city and home to many smuggling networks. Other land routes from West
Africa lead along the western coast of Western Sahara and Morocco, through
Mauritania and the desert into Morocco. The alternative route across Mali is
considered too dangerous. More affluent migrants can fly directly to Casablanca
from Western African countries and then to Tangier and to Europe via the Strait
and Algeria are countries of both transit and origin. In 2017, Morocco
continues to be the main departure country for migrants willing to reach the
southern coast of Spain.
used by people smugglers
smugglers profit from the increasing number of migrants and increase their
prices. While a year ago, the average price to cross from the Moroccan coast to
Spain was around EUR 500, now the price has doubled. Smugglers offer different
packages, depending on the wealth of their clients – some even include multiple
attempts. Migrants on this route can cross on the cheapest toy dinghies, larger
rubber boats, inflatable boats with a powerful engine, a speed boat or even jet
Africans reach Europe with the help of local Moroccan people smugglers. They
pay between EUR 100-1 500 to cross to Spain, depending on the crossing area and
the type of boat used. They are typically recruited by fellow countrymen
working for the Moroccan smugglers. Unlike on the Eastern Mediterranean route,
they tend to rely on personal connections and recommendations from friends or
family members rather than gathering information from the social media or open
the Strait of Gibraltar, some Sub-Saharan migrants also organise the crossing
themselves on toy rubber dinghies, the cheapest and most dangerous means of
transport used on this route. In this part of the Mediterranean Sea, the
crossing is highly dependent on weather conditions. Departure places and the
types of vessels used are constantly changing. The toy boats, usually used on
summer holidays, are unfit for high sea conditions; they carry around twelve to
fifteen people and can capsize within minutes.
more expensive option, usually chosen by Moroccan migrants, are inflatable
boats with powerful engines that can make the crossing to Spain quickly and can
carry from 30 to 60 migrants.
has also noted some cases of migrants trying to cross the Strait of Gibraltar
using jet skis. This can take around 30 minutes and can be quite costly – on
average, migrants have to pay around 3000 euro to get to Europe. Usually the
smuggler leaves the migrant on the shore and then quickly makes the way back to
the Western African coast.
big challenge for law enforcement authorities on this route are clandestine
entries – some migrants hide in ferries in an attempt to reach Spain.
role of Frontex in Spain
the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, has long been helping Spain with
four operations covering the country’s sea borders: operations Indalo, Hera,
Minerva and Focal Points Sea.
operations usually run from May to October every year, covering the months of
the highest migratory pressure. The agency helps Spain with border security,
identifying possible risks and threats and information exchange. Frontex also
assists with checking documents of regular passengers from non EU countries
during peak summer months.
Since the beginning of the Joint Operation Indalo 2017 in May
this year, over 16 tonnes of hashish and 64 million cigarettes have been