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800 migrants storm fences to enter Spanish enclave in Africa

July 27, 2018

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Ceuta (Spain): This still video image shows African migrants climbing the border from Morocco to Spain’s North African enclave of Ceuta on Thursday.—Reuters
Ceuta (Spain): This still video image shows African migrants climbing the border from Morocco to Spain’s North African enclave of Ceuta on Thursday.—Reuters

MADRID: Around 800 migrants stormed border fences separating Spain’s North African enclave of Ceuta from Morocco to get into Europe, police said on Thursday.

The Guardia Civil said 602 migrants made it onto Spanish soil in a massive assault on high, barbed-wire fences shortly after dawn.

Migrants cut holes in the fences and threw feces and quicklime, a skin irritant, at police officers trying to hold them back, the Guardia Civil said in a statement.

They also threw stones at police vehicles, breaking windows, and hurled makeshift flamethrowers at police officers.

The police statement said 16 migrants were taken to the hospital, while five of 15 police hurt were also hospitalised.

The Spanish Red Cross said in a tweet that 132 migrants were hurt in the mass charge.

Sub-Saharan Africans living illegally in Morocco try to get to Europe each year by climbing rows of 6-meter (20-feet) high fences surrounding Ceuta and Melilla, Spain’s other North African enclave. Those who make it across head for crowded, temporary migrant accommodation centres. They are eventually repatriated or let go.

Thursday’s assault added to pressure on Spanish authorities from a recent wave of migration, mostly migrants crossing the Mediterranean on unsafe boats.

The International Organisation for Migration says so far this year more than 22,700 migrants have arrived in Spain three times more than in the same period last year.

Almost 20,000 of them arrived by sea, as good weather allowed more crossings on the short route across the Strait of Gibraltar and a recent crackdown by Libyan authorities had led migrants to choose other routes.

The incident further increases pressure on Spain, which has now surpassed Italy as the number one destination for migrants crossing the Mediterranean by boat.

More than 19,580 people have landed on Spanish shores so far this year, according to the International Organization for Migration.

A spokesman for the Guardia Civil police force in Ceuta said close to 800 migrants had stormed the double barrier, which is also covered in small blades, early on Thursday morning from Morocco.

Moroccan police stopped around 100 of them, while 602 managed to climb over into Spain.

Some were caught by Spanish police between the double barrier or stuck on top, and returned to Morocco.

Spain’s new Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said last month he would “do everything possible” to remove barbed wire from border fences that surround Ceuta and Melilla, another Spanish territory on Morocco’s northern border.

Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2018