Eight-year-old smuggled in suitcase
Eight-year-old Abou was found hidden in a suitcase on 7 May Reuters

Shocked border police have found an eight-year-old boy hiding inside a suitcase, carried by a woman into the Spanish enclave of Ceuta from neighbouring Morocco.

The boy, named Abou, was found inside the case on 7 May in a "terrible state" after the 19-year-old Moroccan woman accompanying him was seen acting suspiciously.

The boy, who is from the Ivory Coast, is now being looked after by local authorities, who are investigating the bizarre case which they say "could have ended in tragedy."

Spanish newspaper El Pais reported that the woman, who is not related to the boy, was paid by his father to carry the suitcase through the border.

A police spokesman told Spanish news agency Efe: "She seemed to hesitate, and it looked as though she didn't want to come through the border. At first we thought that there could be drug packages, but gradually discovered that it was a human body."

Guards ordered the woman to place the suitcase through the X-ray machine, where they immediately saw the outline of a human child.

"My name is Abou," the boy said immediately in French after guards asked the woman to open the wheeled suitcase.

'I just wanted to take him with me'

Efe said that the boy's father, also called Abou, had moved to Gran Canaria in 2013, and had travelled to the Ivory Coast to collect him.

The 42-year-old man crossed the border around an hour-and-a-half after his son, and was detained by border police who showed him a photo of Abou in the suitcase.

After being apprehended, the man confessed to trying to have his son smuggled into the country.

"I just wanted to take him to the Canaries with me," he is reported to have said. He was arrested and is due to testify before a judge on suspicion of human trafficking.

Ceuta and the Spanish enclave of Melilla are situated on the Mediterranean coast, where they are surrounded on three sides by Morocco.

Last February, hundreds of migrants attempted to cross the border into Melilla over one day, with around 100 successfully reaching the Spanish enclave.

Large groups of African immigrants living illegally in Morocco often try to cross into the enclaves in a bid to reach Europe.