Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Migrants storm fences on Spain's North African border

In the latest of many attempts to cross the border, around 100 African migrants stormed the fence between Morocco and the Spanish territory of Melilla on Tuesday.  Five police officers were injured, according to Spanish authorities.

According to officials, around 40 of the migrants managed to cross the fence into the Spanish enclave of Melilla on the Mediterranean coast.  They stormed a section of the six-meter (20-foot) fence close to the Melilla airport on Tuesday morning.

Spanish government officials said in a statement:

"The immigrants were grouped in a grove of trees on the Moroccan side and carried out a massive coordinated assault which the Civil Guard managed to partially abort."

"In their efforts to defend the border fence, five civil guards were injured, none of them seriously for the moment."

Over recent months, authorities have reported hundreds of Africans attempting to enter the territory, either by sea or over the fence.  These incursions have left both migrants and security forces injured.

Around 25 people were injured on March 11, when they tried to breach the fence. According to a Moroccan human rights group, one of them, a Cameroonian migrant of 30, died of his injuries in Morocco. 

The Spanish territory of Melilla is home to around 80,000 people, and has one of the European Union's two land borders with Africa, the other being Ceuta to the west.

In the wake of violent unrest in northern Africa in recent years, there has reportedly been a surge in attempts to scale the fence.  On top of this, a crackdown on arrivals via Spain's Canary Islands has increased numbers trying a different way into Spanish territory.

According to human rights groups, many migrants are camping in the wild on the Moroccan side waiting for a chance to cross.

In protest at the treatment of migrants brought to Morocco by traffickers and allegedly abused by both the Spanish and Moroccan police, the medical aid group Doctors Without Borders this year closed its projects in Morocco.