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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 October 2018

‘Build a wall across the Sahara to stop migrants', Donald Trump told Spain

Mr Trump reportedly suggested Spain replicate his famous election promise in North Africa

The border fence encircling Spain's North African enclave of Ceuta which lies on the Strait of Gibraltar, surrounded by Morocco. AFP
The border fence encircling Spain's North African enclave of Ceuta which lies on the Strait of Gibraltar, surrounded by Morocco. AFP

Donald Trump suggested Spain should build a wall across the Sahara Desert to tackle Europe’s migration crisis, according to the country’s foreign minister.

At a lunch in Madrid this week, Josep Borrell revealed details about a conversation he had with the US president.

“Closing the ports is not a solution, as neither is it a solution to build a wall across the Sahara, as President Trump suggested to me recently,” Mr Borrell said, in comments that were reported by El Pais newspaper.

Mr Trump reportedly said: “The Sahara border can’t be bigger than our border with Mexico.”

The Sahara Desert stretches around 4,800 kilometres from east to west across North Africa in comparison with the border between the US and Mexico, which is approximately 3,200 kilometres long.

Building a wall across the Mexican border was one of Mr Trump’s most famous policy promises during his 2016 election campaign. However, his plans have come unstuck over opposition from Democrats in Congress and the refusal of the Mexican government to pay for the frontier.

It is believed Mr Trump made the Sahara suggestion in June when Mr Borrell travelled to Washington DC with Spain’s King and Queen, although the Spanish foreign minister did not clarify when the comment was made.

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Spain's Algeciras overwhelmed by migrant arrivals

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Spain has become the main destination for migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean into the European Union this year, overtaking Italy and Greece.

Over 33,000 migrants have reached Spain’s southern coast since the beginning of 2018, three times more than the same period last year.

The increase in number of arrivals comes as the EU struggles to find a solution to the migration crisis, which began in 2015.

Although Spain has two enclaves on the North African coast- the cities of Ceuta and Melilla- the Saharan desert is owned by several foreign nations, which would complicate the building of a 4,800km frontier even further.