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Tuesday, 4 September, 2001, 15:25 GMT 16:25 UK
Morocco's king hits back at Spain
Mohammed VI
Mohammed VI says some blame lies with Spain
By the BBC's David Bamford in Rabat

The king of Morocco, Mohammed VI, has responded vigorously to criticism by Spain that his country is not doing enough to control the hundreds of migrants entering Europe illegally from Morocco.

In Morocco we have never hidden the immigration issue... but we don't accept Madrid saying all Spain's difficulties originate in Morocco

King Mohammed VI
King Mohammed, in an interview published in Tuesday's edition of the French newspaper Le Figaro, accused mafia gangs in Spain of playing the biggest role in the trafficking of humans.

Spain complained to the Moroccan ambassador at the end of last month about the problem of immigration after nearly 1,000 new arrivals in less than a week.

Spanish smugglers

The king reportedly acknowledged that emigration was a problem that his government needed to address.

But he resented the implication that Morocco was to blame for Spain's immigration and drug-smuggling difficulties.

Immigrants arrived in Spain
Immigrants have arrived in rubber dinghies
Drug traffickers who operate in Morocco, he said, have Spanish passports and bank accounts.

The king also argued that the boats which take migrants across the Gibraltar straits come from Spain, and that they often had powerful motors able to outrun Moroccan navy vessels.

King Mohammed went on to say that Europe was so close that when he looked from his palace windows in Tangiers, he could see the headlights of the Spanish cars.

This geographical closeness needed to be built upon, he said.

Morocco was looking for something a bit less than EU membership, but a lot more than just the logic of the market which he said was unfair and restrictive.

See also:

22 Aug 01 | Europe
Spanish worry over immigrant rise
19 Aug 01 | Europe
Spain nets 550 illegal immigrants
30 Jul 00 | Media reports
King Mohammed - one year on
15 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Spain
26 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Morocco
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