Morocco, Spain to bolster cooperation to curb illegal migration

A member of Frontex talks to migrants, intercepted off the coast in the Mediterranean Sea, as they wait to disembark from a rescue boat at the port of Malaga, southern Spain. (Reuters)
Updated 04 September 2019

Morocco, Spain to bolster cooperation to curb illegal migration

  • The 2 countries will work together to counter illegal migration networks, terrorism and organized crime
  • Spain would also cooperate with West African states such as Senegal and Mauritania to curb flows

RABAT: Morocco and Spain pledged on Wednesday to cooperate more closely to curb illegal migration, an issue fueling the growth of far right and populist politics in Europe, following a near halving of migrant arrivals in mainland Spain this year from 2018.
The two countries will work together to counter illegal migration networks, terrorism and organized crime, Spanish Interior minister Grande-Marlaska Gómez told reporters after talks with Moroccan counterpart Abdelouafi Laftit.
Recent years have seen hundreds of thousands of migrants a year attempting the journey to Europe from North Africa, with thousands dying at sea.
Tougher enforcement has brought the numbers down, but attitudes to the migrants have become one of the main faultlines in European politics, driving the rise of parties who want tougher policies.
The Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on Morocco’s northern coast are a magnet for Africans trying to reach Europe in search of a better life. The enclaves are surrounded by a 6-meter-high fence topped with razor wire.
Grande Marlaska said Spain would remove razors from the fence surrounding the two enclaves while increasing the height of the fence to curb crossings.
There has been a 45% drop in migrant arrivals in mainland Spain so far this year, Grande-Marlaska Gómez said, but he added Spain’s Canary Islands had seen a 23% rise in arrivals.
Spain would also cooperate with West African states such as Senegal and Mauritania to curb flows, he added.
Figures released by the International Organization for Migration show that 14,969 people arrived in Spain by sea from January 1 to August 28 this year, compared to 28,579 in the same period last year.
Moroccan authorities have stopped 57,000 migrants from illegally crossing to Spain so far in 2019, government spokesman Mustapha El Khalfi said last week.
More than 150 migrants stormed into Ceuta on Aug 30, making it the largest breach of the fence since summer 2018.
The Spanish government last month approved 32.2 million euros in aid to Morocco to counter illegal migration. The Eueopoean Union promised 140 million euros in border management aid to help Morocco curb migration flows.


Pregnant mom, unborn child die in India

Updated 08 July 2020

Pregnant mom, unborn child die in India

  • Devastated family mourn latest victim of health system struggling to cope with outbreak

NEW DELHI: The death of an expectant mom and her unborn child after 13 hospitals in one day refused to treat her has put India’s strained health care system under the spotlight.

The devastated husband and 6-year-old child of eight-month pregnant Neelam Singh, 30, are still struggling to come to terms with the “unwarranted loss” a month after her agonizing death in an ambulance outside a hospital in New Delhi.

With more than 100,000 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the Indian capital, Singh became another victim of a health system battling to cope with patient demand due to a lack of bed space and infrastructure.

That, however, has been little comfort for her family members who said they would never be able to overcome the trauma.

“Those 12 hours were the most traumatic experience of our lives, and we have to live with that trauma,” Shailendra Kumar, Singh’s brother-in-law, told Arab News on Tuesday. Singh had developed complications with her pregnancy on June 5, and Kumar said she was rushed to the same hospital in Noida, Uttar Pradesh where she had been going for regular checkups, but was turned away.

“Shivalik (hospital) gave no reason for refusing to admit her. Despite our pleadings, the hospital did not budge from its stand,” Kumar added.

A day-long ordeal ensued, with one hospital after the other unable to treat her. Eventually, she died in an ambulance some 35 kilometers away from her home in Khoda.

“I took her to 13 hospitals, both government and private facilities, and every one refused to admit her. The image of her writhing in pain will always haunt me,” said Kumar, who was accompanied by Singh’s husband. He added that the reasons provided varied from “high costs” to a lack of facilities.

“One hospital told me that I could not pay the high cost so better try my luck somewhere else. At Sharda Hospital in Greater Noida, I was asked to buy a coupon for COVID-19 treatment for 4,500 rupees ($60), which I did, but still, they refused her entry. It was not the loss of one life but two lives,” he said, referring to her unborn child.

He pointed out that the entire family was in a state of shock following her death with her husband “the worst impacted.”

Kumar filed a complaint against Shivalik and other hospitals but said so far “no action has been taken.”

A day after Singh’s death, the district magistrate of Gautam Buddh Nagar, which Noida falls under, ordered an inquiry and issued instructions for all hospitals “to admit patients regardless of the nature of the case.”

However, 20 days later, on June 26, a similar incident was reported in the Dadri area of Noida.

On that occasion, 21-year-old Robin Bhati had developed a fever, and relatives had taken him to a nearby hospital where a week earlier he had been admitted suffering from influenza. However, the hospital refused to admit him and referred him to a different facility.

Five hours and four hospitals later, a city hospital agreed to take him in, but by then Bhati was already seriously ill and hours later he died after suffering a heart attack.

“We don’t know whether he was a COVID-19 patient or not, but why should hospitals refuse to admit a patient in need of immediate attention,” his uncle Jasveer Bhati told Arab News. A number of the Noida hospitals which allegedly denied admission to Singh and Bhati refused to comment on the cases.

In a statement on Monday, the office of Noida’s chief medical officer said: “Strict instructions have been given to all the private and government hospitals to admit all patients showing COVID-19 symptoms.”

Dr. Loveleen Mangla, a pulmonologist working with Noida-based Metro Hospital and Heart Institute, said: “The government did not prepare itself to face this situation. Now the government is trying to create extra beds and medical facilities, but it’s late. They should have done this three months ago when the nationwide lockdown started.

“With the entire medical infrastructure overstretched and not many quality health workers available in the government hospitals, it’s a grim scenario now,” Mangla added.

With more than 723,000 COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, India is now the world’s third worst-affected country after the US and Brazil, with approaching 21,000 people losing their lives.

And the problem is not unique to northern India.

On Saturday, the southern Indian city of Bangalore reported the case of 50-year-old Vasantha, who was rejected by 13 hospitals before she was accepted by the K.C. General Hospital where she eventually died.

Lalitha, a relative of Vasantha, said: “Some hospitals said they didn’t have beds; some said they didn’t have COVID-19 testing facilities, and that way we lost critical hours. She died because of a problem with her respiratory system.”

Experts have questioned whether health care facilities in India are being overstretched purely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Anant Bhan, a Delhi-based independent researcher in global health, policy and bioethics, said: “Is there a real shortage of beds or is it the shortage caused by lack of efficient management? If the cases increase further, we might find it difficult to provide care.”