Saturday, October 1, 2022

Eighteen migrants die in attempted crossing into Spanish enclave of Melilla, Moroccan authorities say | World News

Eighteen migrants have died during an attempted crossing into the Spanish enclave of Melilla, Moroccan authorities have said.

Around 2,000 migrants stormed a high fence that seals off Spain’s North African enclave in a violent-two hour skirmish with border officers.

Morocco’s interior ministry said the casualties occurred when people tried to climb an iron fence.

It originally reported that five migrants had been killed, 76 had been injured and 140 Moroccan security officers were hurt but later revised the figures.

Friday’s attempt to cross the border began at around 6.40am, with more than 500 migrants starting to enter Melilla within just two hours, the Madrid government’s representative body said in a statement.

Most were forced back but around 130 men managed to reach the enclave and were being processed at its reception center for immigrants, it added.

Footage posted online showed large groups of youths walking along roads around the border, celebrating entering Melilla and the firing of, what appeared to be, tear gas by the authorities.

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez praised officers on both sides of the border for dealing with the “well-organized violent assault”, which he suggested was arranged by “human trafficking mafias”.

“I would like to thank the extraordinary cooperation we are having with the Kingdom of Morocco which demonstrates the need to have the best of relations,” he said.

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Migrants run on Spanish soil after crossing the fences separating Melilla from Morocco. Peak: AP
Riot police officers, left, cordon off the area after migrants arrive on Spanish soil and crossing the fences separating the Spanish enclave of Melilla from Morocco in Melilla, Spain, Friday, June 24, 2022. Dozens of migrants stormed the border crossing between Morocco and the Spanish enclave city of Melilla on Friday in what is the first such incursion since Spain and Morocco mended diplomatic relations last month.  (AP Photo/Javier Bernardo)
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Migrants clash with border officers. Peak: AP

The crossings marked the first incursion since relations between Spain and Morocco improved in March after a year-long dispute centered on the Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony annexed by Morocco in 1976.

Spain normally relies on Morocco to keep migrants away from the border, with Melilla and Ceuta, a second Spanish enclave, becoming a magnet for migrants trying to get into Europe over the last decade.

Read more:
Overjoyed migrants celebrate getting to the Spanish autonomous city of Melilla
Palestinian boy found in trolley pulled by couple trying to get into Spain from Morocco
Migrants discovered hidden in mattresses

Last year, Morocco loosened its controls around Ceuta, allowing thousands of migrants to cross into Spain.

Tensions between the two countries began to thaw earlier this year after Spain backed Morocco’s plan to grant more autonomy to Western Sahara, where activists are seeking full independence.

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