Spain’s Foreign Affairs Minister Josep Borrell revealed President Trump’s advice during a speech at a gathering of the non-profit cultural organization Club Siglo XXI in Madrid, Spanish media reported.
Spanish officials expressed skepticism and reminded Trump of the vastness of the Sahara, El Pais reported Borrell as saying, but Trump is said to have brushed off their concerns and quipped, “The Sahara border can’t be bigger than ours with Mexico.”
Spain does not share a border with the Sahara. It is bordered to the south almost entirely by the Mediterranean Sea, save for a tiny land border with the British territory of Gibraltar.
The country does possess two small territories in Africa, Ceuta and Melilla, but these are situated on the northern coast of the continent — well away from the Sahara desert, which stretches across nearly a dozen countries.
WATCH: Debate over migrants divides Europe
Logistical and sovereignty considerations aside, Borrell said he was opposed to the principle of building walls to curb Europe’s migration crisis during his speech, El Confidencial reported.
However, the former president of the European Parliament said that European countries do need to urgently work towards a solution because Africa’s population is set to double in the next 20 years (the World Economic Forum says the doubling will actually take around 32 years).
Spain has found itself at the forefront of Europe’s migration crisis. The UN migration agency reports that more than 33,600 migrants and refugees arrived in Spain by sea so far this year, over 43 per cent of all seafaring migrant arrivals to Europe.
At least 354 have died in the process.
This month alone, the bodies of 21 would-be migrants trying to reach Spain have washed up on the shores of the Mediterranean, the UN migration agency said.
Migrants have increasingly been looking to Spain after being shunned by Italy’s populist government, which has worked to clamp down on refugees, going so far as to shut its ports to migrant rescue ships.
WATCH: Italy, Malta shut ports to migrant ship, stranding 629 people
Borrell told his audience that he wasn’t in favour of adopting Italy’s hardline stance, but said he was concerned about European societies’ capacity to absorb a high number of migrants, “especially if they are Muslims.”