Authorities in the Spanish territory of Ceuta in North Africa arrested a 19-year-old woman on Thursday for attempting to smuggle a child inside a suitcase. According to media reports published Friday, the 8-year-old boy from Ivory Coast was being smuggled into Ceuta through a pedestrian crossing from Morocco.
“When they put the suitcase through the scanner, the operator noticed something strange, which seemed to be a person inside the case,” a spokesman for the Spanish Civil Guard police force told Agence France-Presse (AFP). The boy, who was reportedly discovered in a “terrible state,” is now in the care of authorities in Ceuta.
The woman is not believed to be related to the boy and was allegedly paid by his father to carry the suitcase across the border. However, “she seemed to hesitate, and it looked as though she didn't want to come through the border,” a police spokesman reportedly said.
— Guardia Civil (@guardiacivil) May 7, 2015
The boy’s father, who lives in the Canary Islands, was also detained later by authorities. He reportedly denied being aware that his son would be stuffed in a suitcase.
According to the Human Rights Watch (HRW), thousands of migrants, mostly from impoverished sub-Saharan African nations, attempt to cross into Ceuta and Melilla, another Spanish enclave on Morocco’s Mediterranean coast, every year. In 2013, over 4,300 people entered the two enclaves illegally, compared to 2,804 the year before despite the deadly risks in crossing the fenced border that is closely guarded by Spanish security forces.
Spanish authorities have often come under harsh criticism from human rights groups for their treatment of migrants.
“Large scale attempts to climb over the fences at Ceuta and Melilla pose genuine security concerns, and Spain has a right to secure its borders. But these challenges do not absolve Spain of its duty to respect human rights, including the right to seek asylum and to protect migrants against inhuman treatment,” HRW said in a statement released in March last year.