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Spain accuses Morocco of "blackmail"

Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles accused Morocco of violating international law. In a Spanish radio interview, she said the government in Rabat had used minors as leverage against Madrid. The border police let "children aged seven or eight" pass through. "They used them in disregard of international law," said Robles. It is "unacceptable" to put the lives of children and other people at risk for political purposes. Spain will not accept this type of "blackmail" and will not be put under pressure, stressed the minister.

Defense Minister Margarita Robles: Spain cannot be put under pressure

A record 8,000 migrants had arrived in Ceuta since Monday, at least one person drowned in the attempt. Most of them have since been sent back, including numerous minors, which has been sharply criticized by human rights organizations. Ceuta and the other Spanish exclave Melilla have the only land border between the European Union and Africa. The areas are therefore regularly the destination of people who hope for a better life in Europe.

The Moroccan security forces let the migrants pass in Ceuta on Monday and only strengthened the border guards on Tuesday. Robles spoke of "aggression against Spain and the EU". Morocco is seen as a friend, but will "use all means necessary to guarantee territorial integrity and protect the borders".

In Spain, people are convinced that Rabat relaxed or even suspended border controls in order to put pressure on the left-wing government in Madrid in the dispute over the conflict region of Western Sahara. The sparsely populated area on the Atlantic coast was a Spanish colony until 1975. Rabat claims large parts of it and is upset because the head of the local independence movement "Liberation Front Polisario", Brahim Ghali, has been treated in a hospital in Spain since mid-April. Morocco also lays claim to Ceuta and Melilla.

uh / qu (dpa, afp, rtr)