Ceuta is one of two small Spanish enclaves in North Africa, the second being Melilla. They provide the only possible entry to European territory without leaving Africa. Ceuta is separated from the Iberian Peninsula by the Strait of Gibraltar, and lies at the strategically important boundary between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. 1300 years ago, Muslims used it as a staging ground for their invasion of the Iberian Peninsula and their aggressive inroads into Europe. The tide took centuries to turn, but in 1415 the Portuguese conquered Ceuta. This event marked the beginning of half a millennium of European dynamism and global expansion.
It is ironic that Ceuta is now once again at the front lines. This time we are witnessing the retreat and decline of Europe, and the demographic expansion of Africa and the Islamic world. As one member of Spain's maritime rescue services commented in late 2013: "It has been a very busy summer, because we're now also rescuing Africans who not only cross in a toy boat but haven't even spent money on buying proper oars."
Apart from scaling the fences at Ceuta and Melilla, other common routes into Europe are by boat, sometimes via Spain's Canary Islands off the Atlantic coast of North Africa, but more frequently to Mediterranean islands such as Italy's Lampedusa. Some also enter Europe from the east, via the Greek islands. Greece has a huge problem with illegal immigrants, many of them Muslims coming from as far east as Afghanistan.