About 1,600 migrants who reached Spain’s North African exclave of Ceuta have been returned to neighboring Morocco, officials said on Tuesday.
Some of the 6,000 people had arrived in Ceuta in the past day, swimming and walking along the Mediterranean coastline from Morocco.
The Spanish Interior Minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, told TV station RTVE.
He said never before had so many migrants entered the small Spanish territory of about 85,000 residents within a single day.
About 1,500 of the people who have arrived since Monday morning were minors, the minister said.
He added that he believed more were waiting to make the illegal crossing.
Grande-Marlaska said the tide of people came after Morocco suspended checks on the adjacent beaches without explanation.
Thousands then took the opportunity to walk along the coast to the border fence with Ceuta.
The migrants from there can only swim around a breakwater to get to Ceuta.
The authorities of the exclave were completely overwhelmed and could do no more than save people from drowning. One person died, local media reported.
Most of the adults, who were initially left to wander around the city, were taken to a stadium for shelter. The minors were placed in a reception camp, a now overcrowded shelter.
It was uncommon for Spain to so quickly return illegal migrants to Ceuta.
The Moroccan Government was reportedly annoyed that Spain allowed the entry of Brahim Ghali, secretary general of the Polisario Front movement, to the Spanish mainland.
The movement seeks the independence of North Africa’s disputed Western Sahara.
Ghali had been treated in Spain for coronavirus since April.