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50 migrants force entry into Spain’s Melilla enclave

Updated July 20, 2019

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One  migrant suffered a fractured leg and was hospitalised and six Spanish  police officers were  “lightly” injured. — Reuters/File
One migrant suffered a fractured leg and was hospitalised and six Spanish police officers were “lightly” injured. — Reuters/File

MADRID: Around 50 migrants forced their way into Spain’s North African enclave of Melilla from Morocco on Friday by climbing over a towering border fence, Spanish authorities said.

About 200 migrants tried to storm the barbed wire fence at dawn but Spanish and Moroccan security forces prevented all but around 50 from entering the coastal city, a spokesman for the Spanish government’s representative in Melilla said.

One migrant suffered a fractured leg and was hospitalised and six Spanish police officers were “lightly” injured with bruises and cuts, he added.

The only other mass attempt by migrants to enter Melilla this year happened in May when roughly 50 migrants managed to scale the border fence and get across.

“There is not as much pressure on the border,” the spokesman said.

Spain’s two North African enclaves, Melilla and Ceuta, have the European Union’s only land borders with Africa.

They are often used as entry points into Europe for African migrants, who either climb over their border fences or try to swim along the coast.Authorities in Melilla, one of Spain’s two enclaves in North Africa, said that around 200 migrants tried to climb a security fence separating the city from Morocco.

The local office of the Spanish government’s representative said about 50 of the migrants managed to scale the barrier surrounding the coastal city, while the other 150 were repelled by Spanish and Moroccan border guards.

Six Spanish police officers were also injured.

The migrants who reached Spanish soil were taken to a holding centre, where they can ask for asylum while authorities start procedures to return them to their countries of origin.

In May, 52 migrants got over the Melilla fence in another attempt.

Spain’s Interior Ministry said 2,397 migrants reached Melilla over land between Jan. 1 and July 15. That is down from 2,554 during the same period last year.

Spain became the leading entry point for migrants to Europe in 2018. The European Union’s border agency says about 57,000 unauthorised crossings were detected in Spain, double the figure for 2017, while overall in Europe they reached a five-year low. This week, it said that 14,667 people have arrived in Spain without authorisation since the beginning of the year, compared to 19,997 during the same period in 2018.

Most risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean Sea in small boats unsuited for open water.

Also on Friday, Spain’s government announced it was dedicating 30 million euros (33.6 million dollars) to help Morocco’s effort to curb illegal migration. Government spokeswoman Isabel Cela said those funds were part of a package of 140 million euros in aid that the EU agreed last year to offer Morocco.

Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2019