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150 migrants attempt to cross into Spain’s Melilla enclave

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Spanish troops and police faced a large crowd of migrants at Ceuta’s border. Photo: AFP

Around 150 migrants tried to cross into Spain’s Melilla enclave early on Tuesday from neighbouring Morocco in an attempt which was thwarted but left nine police slightly injured, officials said.

The incident, which involved “a group of 150 people”, took place before dawn at around 5:15 am, although “none of them got into Melilla”, the Spanish government delegation in the enclave said in a statement.

They tried to get in by running along the Dique Sur breakwater in Melilla port that marks the frontier but were stopped by Spanish police officers with help from their Moroccan counterparts.

During the incident, nine Guardia Civil police officers suffered “slight injuries” as a result of “the violence used by the migrants who were carrying sticks and throwing stones”.

Most of them were sub-Saharan Africans although there were also Moroccans among them, it said.

Spain’s two tiny enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla have Europe’s only land border with Africa, making them a magnet for migrants desperate to escape grinding poverty and hunger.

Last month, Spain was caught off guard when as many as 10,000 people surged into Ceuta as Moroccan border guards looked the other way.

Although most were sent back, around 2,000 are still in the enclave, three-quarters of them unaccompanied minors, officials said late last week.

The incident occurred during a diplomatic crisis between Spain and Morocco over the presence of the ailing leader of Western Sahara’s independence movement at a Spanish hospital, with the border breach widely seen as a punitive move by Rabat.

Although the Polisario leader left Spain on June 2, diplomatic relations have remained tense.

Last week, the European Parliament passed a resolution rejecting “Morocco´s use of border control and migration, and unaccompanied minors in particular, as political pressure against Spain”, angering Rabat.

2021-06-15 15:21:50

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