The Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, separated from Spain by the Strait of Gibraltar | Credit: InfoMigrants
The Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, separated from Spain by the Strait of Gibraltar | Credit: InfoMigrants

In Melilla, one of Spain's two enclaves in Morocco, around 200 migrants have tried to climb a security fence separating the Spanish territory from Morocco, local authorities say. African migrants often use Melilla and Ceuta as entry points into Europe by either climbing over their border fences or trying to swim along the coast.

Around 50 migrants on Friday forced their way into Spain's North African enclave of Melilla from Morocco by climbing over a towering border fence. That’s according to a spokesman for the Spanish government's representative in Melilla.

About 200 migrants tried to scale the barbed wire fence at dawn. Spanish and Moroccan security forces prevented all but around 50 from entering the coastal city, the spokesperson said.

One migrant suffered a fractured leg and was hospitalized while six Spanish police officers were "lightly" injured with bruises and cuts, the spokesperson added.

The only other mass attempt by migrants to enter Melilla this year happened in May when roughly 50 migrants managed to scale the border fence and get across.

"There is not as much pressure on the border," the spokesman said.

Since the beginning of this year, close to 15,000 people have arrived in Spain without authorization, the EU's border agency Frontex said last week. That’s roughly 5,000 fewer arrivals than during the same period in 2018.

Europe’s razor-wire borders in Africa

Spain's two North African enclaves, Melilla and Ceuta, have the European Union's only land borders with Africa.

The autonomous Spanish cities on the African continent are separated from Spain by the Strait of Gibraltar. Sharing land borders with Morocco, they are the only way to enter the EU from Africa without crossing the Mediterranean.

Each of the two Spanish territories is surrounded by a fence around six meters high. The boundary in Melilla, which is smaller than Ceuta and further from Spain, consists of three layers. The outermost fence is built at an angle and coated in fine wire mesh.

Migrants climbing the fence between Morocco and Melilla  Photo Picture-allianceAP PhotoSPalacios

Ceuta and Melilla are often used as entry points into Europe for African migrants, who either climb over their border fences or try to swim along the coast.

In 2018, about 7,000 people crossed the border irregularly from Morocco into the two Spanish enclaves, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). That number represents nearly 11 percent of the total number of about 65,000 irregular migrant arrivals to Spain, more than double the figure for 2017.

Spain became the leading entry point for migrants to Europe in 2018. This year, Greece surpassed Spain as the leading entry point. Together, the two EU countries currently account for roughly three out of four arrivals.

The overall number of irregular migrant arrivals to Europe, meanwhile, has reached a five-year low.

On Friday, Spain's government had announced it was dedicating €30 million to help Morocco's effort to curb irregular migration. Government spokeswoman Isabel Celaa said those funds were part of a package of €140 million in aid that the EU agreed last year to offer Morocco.

With material from AFP, AP


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