Hundreds trespass border into Spanish city in North Africa

Officials in a Spanish enclave in North Africa say at least 500 migrants crossed the fences separating Melilla from Morocco

APTOPIX Migration Europe Spain
APTOPIX Migration Europe Spain

At least 500 migrants crossed the fences separating the Spanish enclave of Melilla from Morocco, authorities in the North African city said Wednesday.

The Spanish government representative in Melilla, Sabrina Moh, told local radio station Cadena COPE she was surprised over 2,000 people had attempted the crossing, one of the highest numbers on record.

Everything happened “really fast,” Moh said.

People fleeing poverty or violence wait for weeks or even months in the vicinity of Melilla and Ceuta, another Spanish territory on the North Africa coast, waiting for the best opportunity to surprise police agents on both sides of the border. If they succeed, they try to continue on to the Spanish mainland and other parts of continental Europe.

COPE posted videos online showing jubilant men celebrating, some of them covered in blood, as their made their way to a migrant center in Melilla with the capacity to host 480 people.

The local Spanish government office issued a statement saying that Moroccan border guards had been overwhelmed by “the great violence” when at least 2,500 people tried to break in to Melilla at 9.30 a.m.

It said people in the group carried hooks and sticks and threw stones at the guards. They also had screws attached to their shoes, which migrants often use to climb the 6-meter (20-foot) double fence that encircles the city of 85,000.

Security forces “neutralized a great part of the numerous group of the people who have tried to enter our city,” the statement said, adding that some 500 were believed to have entered.

Three migrants and three Spanish Civil Guard officers were treated for minor injuries, authorities said.

Thousands, including hundreds of unaccompanied children, crossed into Ceuta last year as Moroccan authorities dropped their vigilance of the shared border. The reduced border security took place amid a diplomatic row between Spain and Morocco over the future of Western Sahara, a territory annexed by Rabat in the 1970s.

Moroccan border guards tried to stop people from crossing over to Melilla on Wednesday, Moh said.

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