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Some 238 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa managed, Thursday morning, to cross the high fence marking the border between Melilla and Morocco, thus entering the Spanish enclave. This is one of the most massive arrivals in recent years, according to the Spanish authorities.
This arrival occurs a little over two months after an unprecedented wave of migration in Ceuta, the other Spanish enclave located in the north of Morocco. Ceuta was then overwhelmed by the arrival of more than 10,000 migrants – the vast majority of Moroccan young people and adolescents – against a backdrop of the diplomatic crisis between Rabat and Madrid.
On Thursday, shortly before 7 am (5 am GMT), more than 300 people from sub-Saharan Africa attempted to climb the metal fence marking the border between Morocco and Melilla, fitted with “hooks”, said in a report. communicated the prefecture of the enclave.
Despite the strong police presence, 238 men managed to enter Melilla. Three police officers were slightly injured and the migrants were transferred to a residence center where they will remain in quarantine due to the health situation, specifies the prefecture.
Melilla and Ceuta, the European Union’s only land borders with Africa, have been subject for years to strong migratory pressure.
>> To see, our Focus: Melilla, European outpost overwhelmed by migratory pressure
Attempts to cross these fences, which are several meters high, are quite frequent and sometimes result in deaths. The passage of more than 200 migrants on Thursday is one of the most significant in recent years in Melilla.
Unprecedented migratory wave in May in Ceuta
By mid-May, more than 10,000 migrants, mostly Moroccan, had entered, this time by sea or by the dike marking the border, into the other enclave of Ceuta. Most were expelled very quickly but more than 2,000 of them – including 1,185 unaccompanied minors – are still in Ceuta, the prefecture of the enclave told AFP on Thursday.
This exceptional migratory wave took place in a context of serious diplomatic tension between Madrid and Rabat – a crisis caused by the reception in Spain of the leader of the Saharawi separatists of the Polisario Front, Brahim Ghali, sworn enemy of Rabat. He was to be treated for Covid-19 there.
The exchanges had been muscular between the two countries, Madrid accusing Morocco in particular of “aggression” and “blackmail”.
Brahim Ghali left Spain in early June for Algeria, support of the Polisario, but relations between Madrid and Rabat remain tense.
In Melilla, the border is marked by a triple fence approximately 12 kilometers long. Like that of Ceuta, it has surveillance cameras and watchtowers. Work has been undertaken to replace the fences with a smoother frontage, leaving very few holds for climbing.
Spain has exercised its sovereignty over Ceuta since 1580 and over Melilla since 1496. Morocco considers them to be integral parts of its national territory.
Located 150 km from Algeria, Melilla (12.5 km2) had more than 87,000 inhabitants at the end of 2020.