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Morocco and Algeria exchange accusations over 'Syrian refugee smuggling'

Morocco and Algeria's land border has been closed since 1994 [AFP]

Date of publication: 23 April, 2017

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North African neighbours trade accusations over using Syrian refugees to heighten tensions on the mountainous border region.

Morocco and Algeria have summoned their respective envoys after dozens of Syrian refugees attempted to "illegally enter" the kingdom from Algeria, the ministry of foreign affairs said on Sunday.

According to the statement, the 54 Syrians tried to cross the border through the town of Figuig between April 17 and 19. Morocco accuses its neighbour of forcing the refugees to undertake the journey in order to stir tensions on the border.

"Algeria must assume political responsibility and morality concerning this situation," the ministry statement published by the MAP state news agency said.

"It is immoral and unethical to manipulate the moral and physical distress of these people, (and) to sow trouble in the Morocco-Algerian border."

Algeria responded with a statement, saying that Morocco's envoy had been summoned to reject the accusation. The country's foreign ministry countered that Moroccan officials had in fact attempted to dispatch a group of Syrians into Algeria.

"He was given a categorical denial of the false allegations, and it was shown they were totally unfounded and aimed at harming Algeria," the statement on the APS state news agency said.

Since the 'Sand War' border disputes of the 1960s, Rabat and Algiers have shared a relationship fraught with tension, particularly over Western Sahara - a disputed former Spanish colony.

Morocco annexed the territory in 1975, however Algeria has supported and hosted the Polisario seperatist group which is held in contempt by Rabat.

The two neighbours share a 1,500 km land border which has been closed since 1994.

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