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Ceuta: Explainer: How did the migrant crisis in Spain’s city of Ceuta occur and what is going to happen now? | News



The irregular entry of nearly 8,000 migrants from Morocco into the Spanish North African city of Ceuta on Monday and Tuesday has sparked an unprecedented migratory crisis on the border. Never before has such a large number of immigrants arrived in such a short time.

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Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, canceled a trip to Paris on Tuesday to travel to Ceuta and Spain’s other exclave city, Melilla, where 86 people managed to jump the border fence in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Of the 8,000 people who had arrived in Ceuta since Monday, either swimming or using makeshift flotation devices, nearly half have been sent back to Morocco, according to the Interior Ministry, which has not given more details about the expulsion procedures employed.

The unprecedented crisis in Ceuta has left many unanswered questions, ranging from the reasons why the Moroccan authorities let so many people breach the border – apparently a diplomatic punishment – to the way in which the thousands of people, including hundreds of minors, will now be taken care of.

What is happening in Ceuta? Rumors began to spread in Morocco on Sunday night that the local authorities were taking a lax attitude to border control. As a result, in the early hours of Monday morning hundreds of people approached the jetties that separate the North African country from the Spanish city to cross them by sea or on foot. The Moroccan gendarmerie displayed an “unusual passivity,” according to Spanish security forces.

By Tuesday afternoon, 8,000 immigrants had arrived in Ceuta, most of them Moroccan but also some sub-Saharans. Dozens continued to arrive throughout the day. Most were young men but there were also entire families and around 1,500 minors, some of whom were very young according to the Ceuta government.

What sparked the incident? The apparent motive was Spain’s decision to admit Brahim Gali, 73, into the country for medical treatment while he was suffering from Covid-19. Gali is the founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Río de Oro (Polisario Front), a liberation movement for the Sahrawi people that is outlawed in the parts of Western Sahara under Moroccan control. He was admitted under a false name to a hospital in the Spanish city of Logroño. This move angered Morocco. But compounding the situation was Donald Trump’s recognition in December of last year of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara. This prompted Rabat to exercise unprecedented pressure on Spain and the European Union so that they “abandoned the comfort zone” of the United Nations over the disputed territory, in the words of Moroccan authorities, and they followed in Trump’s footsteps.

Migrants trying to reach Ceuta by sea on Tuesday.
Migrants trying to reach Ceuta by sea on Tuesday.Mohamed Siali / EL PAÍS

What has been the Spanish government’s position? The government has responded by trying to resolve the crisis, which has sparked widespread alarm within the executive – a coalition of the Socialist Party (PSOE) and junior partner Unidas Podemos. The prime minister held a press conference on Tuesday at which he spoke about the need to defend the “territorial integrity” of Spain. He stepped up the government’s diplomatic activity and in particular focused on the European Union in search of support. Sánchez deployed the army in Ceuta on Monday and made a series of calls on Tuesday, including to Spain’s King Felipe VI and the leader of the main opposition Popular Party (PP) Pablo Casado.

What is Morocco saying? The Moroccan government has kept quiet about what has happened. The only statement from one of the country’s officials so far came from its ambassador in Spain, Karima Benyaich, who said that there “are acts that have consequences and that have to be accepted” before she was recalled for consultations by Rabat.

What will happen to the migrants? The Interior Ministry is focusing on expelling as many as possible as quickly as possible. While Morocco permitted them to cross the border headed to Ceuta, it is also accepting the migrants back into its territory. On Monday and Tuesday, around 4,000 people were sent back to the North African country, according to Interior Ministry sources.

According to news agency Efe, as well as a number of police sources who have spoken to EL PAÍS, these expulsions were, in many cases, carried out without the proper formalities and on a collective basis. The lawyers association in Ceuta has confirmed that its attorneys were only mobilized at 2pm on Tuesday, despite the fact that the expulsions began on Monday. According to sources from the association, the lawyers were called to open cases related to the expulsions in accordance with the parts of the Immigration Law that relate to irregular entry into Spain and guarantee a minimum legal coverage.

The Interior Ministry, however, has until now refused to give details about the procedures being used to expel the migrants and has only clarified that they are “refusals at the border,” a euphemism for irregular expulsions or express deportations.

What will happen to the minors? They should not be returned to Morocco under Spanish law and their interests as minors should take precedence. Interior Ministry Fernando Grande-Marlaska stated on Tuesday that no youngsters had been sent back across the border. Police sources added that if any minor has returned to Morocco, it is because they requested to be let through.

With less than 19 square kilometers of territory, how will Ceuta cope? The Ceuta government and the central government’s delegation in the North African city has set up spaces to deal with the migrants – in particular the minors but also the adults that are still in the city. The approximately 1,500 minors who crossed the breakwater were in a warehouse in Tarajal on Tuesday afternoon. All shelters in the city are completely overwhelmed. Red Cross sources said that there were no figures for the number of people who were assisted on arrival – many of the migrants were exhausted after swimming ashore – nor how many people were sent to hospital. Many sources on the ground spoke about a situation of “mayhem.”

Has this situation ever been seen before? This is the first time that such a large number of migrants has crossed the Spanish borders in an irregular manner. Not even the crisis in the Canary Islands in 2006, nor during the summer of 2018, have so many people arrived all at once. The last record was seen in November 2020, when around 2,200 people came ashore in Arguineguín, in the Canary Islands, over the space of just two days.

With reporting by Francisco Peregil, Carlos E. Cué, Laura J. Varo and Guillermo Abril.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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China officially joins Russia as a danger to Nato



China has joined Russia as an explicit danger to Western allies after a Nato summit in Brussels on Monday (14 June).

“China’s stated ambitions and assertive behaviour present systemic challenges to the rules-based international order and to areas relevant to alliance security,” the 30 Nato leaders said in a joint communiqué.

“China is rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal with more warheads and a larger number of sophisticated delivery systems,” the statement added.

“It is also cooperating militarily with Russia, including through participation in Russian exercises in the Euro-Atlantic area,” it said.

Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg highlighted the novelty of the text in his post-summit press conference.

“The first time [ever] we mentioned China in a communiqué and a document in a decision from Nato leaders was 18 months ago,” he noted, when Nato spoke of China-linked “opportunities and challenges” back in 2019.

“China’s not an adversary,” Stoltenberg noted.

But he also expanded on the list of its threatening activities.

“They [the Chinese] already have the … second biggest defence budget, and already the biggest navy, and they are investing heavily in new modern capabilities, including by investing in new disruptive technologies such as autonomous systems, facial recognition and artificial intelligence, and putting them into different weapon systems,” he said.

“They are really in the process of changing the nature of warfare,” Stoltenberg said.

He rejected the idea that Nato, whose core task was to defend the North-Atlantic region, was overstepping its treaty boundaries.

“To respond to the challenges we see that China poses to our security, is not about moving Nato to Asia … because we see that China is coming closer to us,” he said.

“We see China coming closer to us in cyber, controlling infrastructure in Africa and the Arctic, training together with Russia in North Atlantic waters,” he added.

The Nato pivot to China did not mean it had abandoned concern on Russia, whose malign activities, from waging war in Ukraine to blowing up warehouses in the Czech Republic, still dominated the communiqué, however.

“Until Russia demonstrates compliance with international law and its international obligations and responsibilities, there can be no return to ‘business as usual’,” the statement said.

China was named 10 times and Russia 62 times.

Macron dissent

Meanwhile, French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel also voiced a more China-friendly tone.

“Nato is a military organisation, the issue of our relationship with China isn’t just a military issue. It is economic. It is strategic. It is about values. It is technological,” Macron told press after the summit.

China was a “major power with which we are working on global issues to move forward together” as well as a “competitor”, he noted.

“It’s very important that we don’t … bias our relationship with China,” he said.

“China is not in the North Atlantic,” Macron added, going against Stoltenberg’s line.

“Russia, above all, is a major challenge,” Merkel also said, while noting the Nato communiqué reflected the fact the US was a Pacific-Ocean as well as an Atlantic power.

“If you look at the cyber threats, the hybrid threats, if you look at the cooperation between Russia and China, then you cannot simply negate China … [but] I do not think that we should overestimate the importance of this [Chinese threat],” she added.

For its part, China had not yet responded as of Tuesday morning.

The Nato summit came ahead of US president Joe Biden’s meeting with top EU officials in Brussels on Tuesday and with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Geneva on Wednesday.

It signalled a return to normal after four years in which former US president Donald Trump had questioned the value of Nato and insulted Macron, Merkel, and others, while cozying up to Putin.

Back to normal

Nato’s mutual defence pact was “rock solid” and a “sacred obligation” for the US, Biden said.

“I want all Europe to know that … Nato is critically important to us,” he added.

“With Joe Biden … there is a clear understanding of the necessity of Nato,” Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said.

“I was able to work with Trump. Of course, it was a bit more awkward … but with Joe Biden, it’s more natural again,” he added.

Meanwhile, Biden gave away little on what he might say to Putin.

But he sounded more dovish than hawkish by excluding the idea of a Nato membership action plan for Ukraine, on grounds “they [Ukraine] still have to clean up corruption”.

He also said Putin was a “bright” and “tough” adversary.

“I will make clear to president Putin that there are areas where we can cooperate, if he chooses,” Biden said.

The West needed a “robust dialogue” with Russia to “build a security framework for the European continent”, Macron also said.

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The Economy and China at the G7; The Conflict in Tigray; NATO Summit



The Tigray region in Ethiopia faces the grim prospect of a man-made famine. What can be done to end this slide into tribal conflict?

Alexander Mercouris, editor-in-chief at The Duran, and writer on international affairs with a special interest in Russia and law, and Dr. Kenneth Surin, Professor Emeritus of literature and professor of religion and critical theory at Duke University, join us in a conversation about the main takeaways from the G7 summit over the weekend, the proposal of a global minimum global tax rate of 15%, what impact this could have on multinational corporations, and whether we should be hopeful or skeptical about this considering how low the bar has been set for these corporations. We also talk about how many of the conversations were framed within the context of a confrontation with China, by proposing a plan to counter the Belt and Road initiative, and focusing on the issues in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

Teodrose Fikremariam, cofounder of Ghion Journal, tells us about the ongoing conflict in the Tigray region in Ethiopia, including the involvement of Eritrean troops in the conflict and why they are there, claims that there is a risk of a man-made famine in Tigray and how there have been episodes of collective punishment. We also talk about how this conflict has brought a new tribalism into the forefront, how the portrayal of the Tigray authorities as victims in Western media is not completely accurate, taking into consideration that they began hostilities, and how international multilateral and regional organizations do not have the capacity or understanding of the situation to work as honest brokers in the conflict.

John Feffer, Director of Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies, joins us to talk about the NATO summit taking place in Brussels this week, how the organization is yet again trying to redefine its mission and find its purpose, and whether they will be able maintain their membership as the justification for its existence seems to change every year. We also talk about the continued withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and the establishment of permanent airbases in the region.

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Unit 29155: Russian spy detected in Catalonia accused of poisoning Bulgarian arms dealer | International



Image of Denis Sergeev in 1999 taken from a documentary on the battle for Alilen.
Image of Denis Sergeev in 1999 taken from a documentary on the battle for Alilen.

The public prosecutor in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia has accused General Denis Sergeev – a Russian spy who traveled to Barcelona two days before the October 1, 2017 unauthorized referendum on Catalan independence – of the attempted murder of Bulgarian arms dealer Emilian Gebrev, his son Hristo Gebrev, and an executive of Gebrev’s company Emco Odd, according to intelligence sources consulted by EL PAÍS.

The three victims were poisoned after coming into contact with a chemical agent. Emilian Gebrev suffered hallucinations, vomiting and fell into a coma, remaining in hospital for three weeks. The incident took place in Sofia between April 28 and May 4, 2015, according to sources from Sofia’s public prosecutor.

Gebrev began to feel unwell, four days after Sergeev arrived in Bulgaria

In January this year, the public prosecutor accused three Russian citizens of the attempted murder, but did not reveal their names. A spokesperson from the organization told EL PAÍS that the secrecy was justified given that the country’s laws prohibit information being revealed from an ongoing investigation.

The Sofia public prosecutor subsequently issued three European arrest warrants and international arrest warrants with the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) in an effort to extradite the three accused Russians to Bulgaria, where they are facing charges of premeditated attempted murder.

Spanish police sources maintain that Sergeev is also wanted in at least two other countries where his presence has been detected.

The Sofia public prosecutor began to suspect Sergeev’s involvement in the poisoning after reviewing security camera footage of an underground car park from April 28, 2015. The video, which lasts two minutes, shows a man approaching a vehicle. According to the public prosecutor, “an FBI laboratory was tasked with doing an expert study to identify the person implicated in the crime.”

Security camera footage of the underground car park.

Dressed in a hat and gloves, the figure in the video loiters near the car of one of the victims. Investigators believe that the suspect applied a chemical agent to the vehicle in an effort to kill the arms dealer Emilian Gebrev.

Sergeev uses the false name Sergey Fedotov, and has been connected to dozens of destabilization operations in Europe and Asia. The agent, who is linked to the elite Russian military unit known as “Unit 29155,” is also on the radar of Spanish investigators. Last year, Judge Manuel García-Castellón of Spain’s High Court, the Audiencia Nacional, opened a sealed probe into the role the spy played while he was in Barcelona. As this newspaper revealed, Sergeev traveled to the Catalan capital on at least two occasions – on November 5, 2016 and on September 29, 2017, just days before the illegal referendum on Catalan independence.

According to the investigative website Bellingcat, with which EL PAÍS collaborates, eight agents from Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU, as it is known in Russian by its initials) were involved in the attempted murder of Gebrev, his son and the head of the Emco Odd production department. The Russian spies had traveled to Bulgaria using false names during the period in which the victims were poisoned.

At the end of April, 2015, Sergeev and his colleague Georgy Gorshkov arrived as tourists at a hotel complex in the city of Burgas, on the coast of the Black Sea. Another spy from the unit, Sergey Pavlov, arrived the same day in Sofia.

Four days after the Russians arrived, Gebrev began to feel unwell. The arms dealer initially thought he was suffering from tiredness and the flu, but he then began to feel a burning sensation, dizziness and blurred vision. He was taken to a military hospital in Sofia, where he fell into a coma. His son Hristo and the Emco Odd business executive also fell ill, and were taken to the same hospital, where the three remained for more than three weeks.

A month after being admitted to hospital, Gebrev and his son began having the same symptoms. According to Bellingcat, a urine test revealed that their bodies contained traces of two organophosphates, a toxic substance linked to pesticides.

According to ‘The New York Times,’ Unit 29155 is working to destabilize Europe

Sergeev and Gorshkov left Bulgaria the day after the first poisoning attempt. They flew first to the Istanbul Atatürk Airport in Turkey and then to Moscow. Pavlov returned to the Russian capital on a direct flight.

When former Russian spy Sergey Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in the United Kingdom with the nerve agent Novichok in March, 2018 – an operation Western intelligence services attribute to Unit 29155 – Gebrev noted similarities between their symptoms and those he had experienced in 2015.

Although Gebrev’s company Emco Odd exported weapons to Georgia during its war with Russia in 2018, the arms dealer told Bellingcat that this was not why he was targeted by the Russian spying unit. According to Gebrev, his company sold less than 10% of all the weapons sold to Georgia by Bulgarian firms.

Another hypothesis from Bellingcat links the attempted poisoning to a power struggle between Bulgarian oligarchs. Gebrev told the investigative journalist network that he did not export weapons to Ukraine, which has been in conflict with Russia since 2014.

Western intelligence services connect 20 agents from Unit 29155 to the assassination of a Georgian citizen of Chechen origin in Berlin in August, 2019. The unit is also linked with the failed coup in Montenegro in 2016, which included a plan to assassinate the prime minister and a destabilization campaign in Moldova.

In October of last year, The New York Times reported that Unit 29155 is part of a hybrid war orchestrated by the Russian government that mixes military confrontation with propaganda, hacking and disinformation. According to the newspaper, the members of the unit are working to destabilize Europe, and are trained in operations of subversion, sabotage and assassination.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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