Parsley Island – Isla de Perejil in Strait of Gibraltar

Parsley Island, Isla de Perejil, is a rocky island in the Strait of Gibraltar that is claimed by both Spain and Morocco. For the time being, Spain has the best credentials, but Morocco is not giving up. The island is located near Gibraltar and is a Spanish exclave in Moroccan territory. It is precisely because of Gibraltar that Spain does not want to lose it, just like the other islands of the Plazas Menores and the Spanish exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the African continent.

Isla de Perejil – Parsley Island

Parsley Island is no more than 0.15 km² in size. To compare that with something we can imagine: it is 4.33 times larger than the fortress island of Pampus, which is located in the IJmeer in front of Amsterdam. The coastline is 1.6 km and the rocky island rises 17 meters above sea level. Isla de Perejil is 500 meters long and 300 meters wide and the highest point rises 74 meters into the air. It is located just off the African coast, about 200 meters from the mainland of Morocco. And how many people live there? Zero. The island is uninhabited. The Moroccan name for the island is Leila which means ‘no man’s land’. The island falls under the Andalusia region and within the Spanish province of Cádiz.

Plazas Menores of Spain

Isla de Perejil belongs to the Plazas Menores archipelago and is the neighboring island of Peñon de Vélez de la Gomera, Peñon de Alhucemas and Isla de Alborán.


Plazas menores belong to the Plazas de soberanía , exclaves of Spain. These Plazas are divided into the Plazas mayores (large places) and the Plazas menores (small places). They are sovereign places that fall directly under Madrid. The Plazas mayores are the two fortified cities of Ceuta and Melilla and the Plazas menores are the small islands where no one lives and only the occasional Spanish soldiers stay. Geographically these areas belong to the African continent, but politically to Spain. The Plazas Menores consist of:

  • Isla de Alborán
  • Isla de Perejil
  • Islote de la Nube
  • Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera
  • Penon de Alhucemas
  • Isla de Mar
  • Isla de Tierra
  • Islas Chafarinas (Isla del Congreso, Isla Isabel II, Isla del Rey)

Parsley Island / Source: Juanlu Gonzalez, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

Mediterranean Sea and Cueta

The island is located in the Mediterranean Sea, in the part called the Strait of Gibraltar, less than 8 km from the city of Cueta (pronounced Sebta).

Spanish territory near Morocco

It has been Spanish territory since 1580, but Morocco does not agree with that. It is an island where only a few goats live and occasionally some migrants who use it as a stopover on the way to a better life in Europe. Soldiers of the Spanish Foreign Legion were also stationed occasionally, mainly to defend Spanish territory against migrants and Moroccans. Coastal surveillance is now organized from Ceuta and Melilla.

Occupation by Morocco

July 11, 2012

In 2012 there was an incident with military consequences. On July 11, 2002, the Moroccan police occupied the island under the guise of fighting illegal immigrants and terrorism. Spain was furious and did not let it go. The half kilometer rock in the Mediterranean Sea had to carry the Spanish flag again. Spain found the European Union on its side.


The army, navy and air force were deployed to drive out the Moroccan agents. They offered no resistance. The Moroccan flag was subsequently replaced by a Spanish one. Spain interpreted Morocco’s action as a test and responded with force majeure. Morocco not only wants Parsley Island back, but also the mainland exclaves: Ceuta and Melilla . Spain does not practice about it.

Isla de Perejil

A . Isla de Perejil
B . Ceuta
C . Gibraltar
D . Strait of Gibraltar
E . Melilla

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