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

Four migrants have perished in the attempt to reach Melilla, one of two tiny Spanish autonomous cities on Morocco's Mediterranean coast, via a sewer tunnel.

Four Moroccan nationals have died trying to cross into the Spanish enclave Melilla in Morocco via a sewer tunnel.

The men started out in the neighboring Moroccan harbor of Beni Ensar, local authorities said on Thursday. While three of them were dead by the time they were discovered, the fourth one died later in hospital.

At the time of writing, the cause of their deaths was unknown. Moroccan authorities said they would launch an investigation into the incident.

Melilla and the second Spanish enclave Ceuta are enveloped by the North African country Morocco, which is separated by only 15 kilometers of ocean from Spain in the Strait of Gibraltar. Melilla and Ceuta are the European Union's only land borders with Africa.

Moroccans make up around one in ten migrants who successfully cross into Melilla, compared to eight out of ten in Ceuta. 

At the forefront of the migration crisis

Morocco is a key transit route for migrants from sub-Saharan Africa attempting to reach the EU, in particular Spain. According to Moroccan law enforcement officials, they stopped around 74,000 irregular attempts to enter Spain last year.

While migrants continue to try to enter the Spanish enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta by sea and by scaling the barbed wire border fences, the number of successful crossings has declined lately: In the first ten months of this year, some 2,000 migrants managed to enter the enclaves by land and sea, some 72% of them in Melilla.

2019, in comparison, saw 70% more arrivals during the same period, according to UN refugee agency UNHCR. Around eight out of ten migrants who arrived this year were male.

In August, UNHCR, IOM and Amnesty International said migrants and refugees staying at centers inside Melilla are in danger due to overcrowding. Also, in August, a man died trying to scale the Melilla border fence.

With AFP

 

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