A Moroccan woman was busted on Dec. 30 trying to smuggle a teenage African migrant into Spanish territory by hiding him in her luggage.
Spanish authorities stopped the 22-year-old woman near the border crossing into Ceuta, a Spanish province neighboring the North African country of Morocco, CNN.com reported. Inside her cramped suitcase, they discovered a 19-year-old migrant from Gabon, who was immediately offered medical attention due to the lack of oxygen inside the travel bag.
Border officials said they became suspicious of the young woman after they noticed she was carrying her suitcase on top of a trolley. Moreover, authorities said the woman had an “evasive attitude while going through the established controls” and seemed nervous when talking to agents.
Ceuta and the province of Melilla, located to the east, are the only two land borders between Europe and Africa. The two enclaves have become popular points of entry into Europe for hundreds of Sub-Saharan African migrants looking to cross the Mediterranean Sea into freedom from war and violence, according to the news site.
In fact, Reuters reported on Sunday that nearly 800 African migrants attempted to enter Ceuta from Morocco by storming a border fence on New Year’s Day. Nearly all of them were arrested and sent back to Morocco, while just two were allowed to enter the province for medical treatment.
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“From now on, those making such attempts will be presented before the competent judicial authorities who will decree their expulsion from the kingdom [of Morocco] or heavier penalties, according the gravity of the act,” the Moroccan ministry said in a statement.
2016 marked the deadliest year for African migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean into Europe, with nearly 5,000 men, women and children dying along the way, according to nonprofit Doctors Without Borders. The charity reported that approximately one out of every 41 migrants who attempted to flee the North African country of Libya by boat died trying.
Incidents of illegal smuggling, similar to the one involving the refugee from Gabon, have actually become more commonplace in migrants’ desperate attempts to get to Europe.
Two migrants from Guinea, a man and a woman, were rescued on Monday, Jan. 2, after Spanish officials found them hidden inside the dashboard and the backseat of a car, CNN.com reported. Authorities said both migrants were in their 20s. The driver of the vehicle was later arrested, as the car turned out to be stolen and bore fake Moroccan license plates.