Spain has sent around 4,800 of the 8,000 migrants who crossed into its African enclave of Ceuta back to Morocco, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said yesterday.
Relative calm has returned to the beaches of Ceuta where a record influx of migrants had arrived on its shores from Morocco starting Monday, after Moroccan security forces appeared to relax border controls.
The scene was both a humanitarian and the diplomatic crisis, deriving from Spain's decision to treat Brahim Ghali, leader of the Polisario Front, for a severe case of COVID-19 in a Spanish hospital.
Spain did not tell Morocco that it was hosting the leader of the Western Sahara separatist movement, which provoked an escalation of threats that were shrugged off by Spain.
According to local Spanish media, Ghali has been summoned to appear before the Spanish High Court on 1 June to make a declaration following the decision to reopen a lawsuit against him for genocide and torture.
Meanwhile, rights groups have slammed Spain for returning migrants without due process. Six NGOs released a statement on Tuesday saying that the rapid, mass expulsions are violating international and Spanish law.
European courts have previously backed Spain's so-called "express deportations", but only in cases where migrants were crossing border fences.
Spain's Interior Ministry has not made public its legal justification for carrying out these mass deportations at record speed.
Many of those remaining in Spain are minors, who, the Interior Ministry said cannot be deported quickly. Spanish authorities have scrambled to establish a holding area in the small city of Ceuta.
The European Union has backed Spain's actions, with European Council President Charles Michel tweeting: "Spain has all our support and solidarity… Spain's borders are the EU's borders."