Spain deployed military troops in an effort to stem a surge of more than 8,000 migrants in the enclave of Ceuta bordering Northern Africa. File Photo by Jalal Morchidi/EPA-EFE
May 18 (UPI) -- Spain sent military forces to the enclave of Ceuta on Tuesday after more than 8,000 migrants traveled to the North African outpost.
Spanish authorities said the 8,000 migrants included at least 2,000 minors and more than 4,000 people were already sent back after the nation deployed troops, military trucks and helicopters to stem the arrivals.
"We are going to restore order to the city and its borders," Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said during a televised address as he described the situation as a crisis.
Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaksa told reporters Tuesday that Ceuta, a port city that borders Morocco and is separated from the rest of Spain by the Mediterranean Sea, "is as much Spain as Madrid, Seville or Barcelona."
Migrants began arriving in Ceuta in large numbers on Monday as many swam around breakwaters or paddled makeshift dinghies onto its beaches, while others waded through the waters in low tide or climbed over security fences.
The surge in arrivals on Tuesday exceeds the number of migrants who had attempted to cross into Ceuta in the rest of the year so far.
Red Cross officials said they were "absolutely" overwhelmed by the arrivals, as many of the migrants required treatment for hypothermia and Spanish authorities said at least one migrant died while crossing the border.
The influx of migrant arrivals comes amid a diplomatic clash between Spain and Morocco after Brahim Ghali, the leader of a movement seeking to make Western Sahara independent from Morocco, has been receiving medical treatment in Spain since last month.
The European Union on Tuesday called on Morocco to take steps to prevent further departures.
"The most important thing now is that Morocco continues to commit to prevent irregular departures and that those that do not have the right to stay are orderly and effectively returned," said Ylva Johansson, the EU's commissioner for home affairs. "Spanish borders are European borders."