Migrants trying to cross the border between Ceuta and Melilla. Credit: EPA
Migrants trying to cross the border between Ceuta and Melilla. Credit: EPA

The border at the Spanish enclave Ceuta in Morocco has become vulnerable to migrant attacks. Attempts to breach the border wall have increased by 34 percent in one year.

Ceuta, the Spanish enclave in Morocco, has seen a total of 26 attempts to breach its barrier wall since the start of the year. In this time, 1,130 migrants have managed to enter Spanish territory, not including those who arrived by sea with motorboats, small vessels and via rescue off the coast of the autonomous city. 


Favorable weather and border sweeps favored sea arrivals 

The number of sea arrivals on some weekends are reaching peaks of 600 people. The increase is explained in part by favorable weather conditions at year's end, as well as increased border roundups conducted in Ceuta and Melilla by the Moroccan Gendarmerie. 

Attempts to climb the double wall at the border of the two enclaves have increased by 34 percent in one year. A total of  9,000 migrants have passed through as of September 2017, compared to 613 in the same period last year, according to data released by the Spanish Interior Ministry. The increase in migrant pressure began January 1, 2017, when about 1,100 migrants attempted to scale the border perimeter that separates Ceuta from Morocco.

Two additional assaults on the wall took place on February 17 and 20, with 750 and 600 Sub-Saharan migrants, respectively. Those attempts resulted in the passage of a total of 854 migrants into Spanish territory, which led to the collapse of Ceuta's Temporary Immigrant Centre (CETI). 

Changing methods to counteract police patrols 

A change in the way the borders were breached took place on August 7, when 187 people managed to pass through the border checkpoint at Tarajal by running barefoot en masse, to counteract police patrols. This "avalanche" prompted the temporary closure of the checkpoint, including to Moroccan street vendors and merchants. 

That brought criticism from Amnesty International, which denounced border police action "based on kicking and blows with batons" against those attempting to cross. Since then, surveillance at the border perimeter has been strengthened, with the support of a patrol helicopter during nighttime hours at the Ceuta border, as a deterrent to further assaults on the wall. Since August, only 14 migrants have managed to climb the wall, with the result of increased arrivals by sea.  
 

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