Morocco said that 18 migrants died on Friday while attempting to enter Spain’s North African enclave of Melilla. This followed a violent two-hour fight between migrants and border guards that resulted in a large number of injuries
A high fence enclosing the enclave was breached by about 2,000 refugees. More than 100 migrants managed to pass from Morocco into Melilla as a result, according to Moroccan and Spanish police, which led to fights with security personnel.
Initial reports from Morocco’s Interior Ministry stated that 76 migrants were hurt and that five migrants had perished in the border raid, some of whom had fallen over the barrier around Melilla and others in a throng. Later, another 13 deaths were reported.
It further stated that 140 members of the Moroccan security forces had been hurt, five of them critically.
The Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, both on the northern coast of Africa, have drawn primarily sub-Saharan migrants seeking entry into Europe over the previous ten years.
The attempt on Friday got underway at 6:40 a.m. against resistance from Moroccan security officers.
More than 500 migrants started crossing into Melilla at around 8:40 a.m., jumping over the roof of a border checkpoint after chopping through fencing with a bolt cutter, according to a statement from the Madrid government’s representative body there.
The majority were pushed back, but 130 men made it to the enclave and were being processed at its immigration receiving center, it claimed.
Social internet videos showed throngs of African adolescents crossing the border, celebrating their entry into Melilla, and authorities firing what seemed to be tear gas in their direction.
According to Spanish authorities, 49 Spanish police officers and 57 migrants were hurt during the border incursion.
‘Agents of Human Trafficking’
Pedro Sanchez, the prime minister of Spain, praised border patrol agents for repelling “a well-organized, brutal assault” that he claimed was planned by “people trafficking mafias.”
He emphasized the strengthening of ties between Rabat and Madrid. The position of Morocco toward Western Sahara, which the North African country claims as its own but where an Algeria-backed independence movement is calling for the establishment of an independent state, was recognized by Spain in March.
He stated, “I would want to praise the exceptional cooperation we are having with the Kingdom of Morocco which highlights the need to have the best of relations.
The incursion, according to AMDH Nador, a Moroccan human rights watchdog, happened a day after migrants and Moroccan security forces fought over camps that the migrants had built in a woodland close to Melilla.
The incident was a part of an “intense crackdown” on migrants, according to the chairman of the watchdog, Omar Naji, who told Reuters that Spanish and Moroccan forces had begun joint patrols and increased security in the region surrounding the enclave.
The incursion was the first large one since Spain changed its position on Western Sahara to one that was more pro-Rabat.
Prior to that change, the number of migrants entering the two enclaves had more than tripled compared to the same time period in 2021.
Up to 8,000 people attempted to enter Ceuta in mid-2021 by swimming there or scaling its barrier over the course of a few days, taking advantage of what appeared to be a loosening of border control on the Moroccan side of the border as a result of a diplomatic dispute between the two countries.