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Five migrants die in a mass attempt to enter Melilla, Spain

#migrants #die #mass #attempt #enter #Melilla #Spain

Five migrants were killed and dozens injured when a large crowd tried to cross from Morocco to the Spanish enclave of Melilla on Friday, the latest migrant tragedy on the outskirts of Europe.

About 2,000 migrants approached Melilla at dawn and over 500 managed to enter a border control area after cutting a fence with scissors, the Spanish government’s local delegation said in a statement.

Of those 130 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, “all men and apparently adults,” managed to enter Melilla, she added.

A Moroccan official from the nearby border town of Nador said “five deaths were recorded after storming the border and some falling from the top of the barrier” separating the two sides.

He said 140 security guards and 76 migrants were injured trying to cross the border, the first such mass attack since Spain and Morocco repaired diplomatic ties last month.

The Spanish government’s local delegation said only that 49 Spanish police officers were slightly injured, while 57 migrants suffered injuries of varying degrees of severity, including three who were hospitalized.

Morocco has deployed a “large” number of forces to try to repel the attack at the border, which have been “actively cooperating” with Spanish security forces, a statement said earlier.

Images in Spanish media showed exhausted migrants lying on the sidewalk in Melilla, some with bloodied hands and torn clothes.

In his speech in Brussels, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez condemned the “violent attack” he accused of “mafias trafficking in human beings”.

– migrant magnet –

Melilla and Ceuta, Spain’s other tiny North African enclave, have the European Union’s only land borders with Africa, making them magnets for migrants.

On Thursday evening, migrants and security forces “collided” on the Moroccan side of the border, Omar Naji of Moroccan rights group AMDH told AFP.

Several of them were hospitalized in Nador, he added.

In March this year, Spain ended a years-long diplomatic crisis by backing Morocco’s autonomy plan for Western Sahara, which dates back to decades of neutrality.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez then visited Rabat and the two governments welcomed a “new stage” in relations.

The dispute began when Madrid allowed Brahim Ghali, leader of the Polisario independence front in Western Sahara, to be treated for Covid-19 in a Spanish hospital in April 2021.

A month later, about 10,000 migrants streamed across the Moroccan border into the Spanish enclave of Ceuta when border guards looked the other way in what was widely seen by Rabat as a punitive gesture.

Rabat is demanding an autonomous status for Western Sahara under Moroccan sovereignty, but the Polisario wants a UN-monitored referendum on self-determination, as agreed in a 1991 ceasefire agreement.

In the days just before Morocco and Spain severed ties, there were several attempted mass crossings of migrants into Melilla, including one involving 2,500 people, the largest such attempt on record. Almost 500 made it across.

– ‘Empowerment’ –

Improved relations with Morocco, the departure point for many migrants, has led to a drop in arrivals, particularly in Spain’s Atlantic Canary Islands.

The number of migrants arriving in the Canary Islands in April was 70 percent lower than in February, government figures show.

Sanchez warned earlier this month that “Spain will not tolerate the use of the tragedy of illegal immigration as a bargaining chip”.

Spain will seek to list “irregular migration” as one of the security threats on NATO’s southern flank when the alliance convenes for a summit in Madrid on June 29-30.

Over the years, thousands of migrants have attempted to cross the 12-kilometer Melilla-Morocco border or the 8-kilometer Ceuta border by climbing the fences, swimming along the coast or hiding in vehicles.

The two territories are protected by fences reinforced with barbed wire, video cameras and watchtowers.

Migrants sometimes try to climb over the border fence with hooks and sticks and throw stones at the police.

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