Hundreds of Africans charge Spanish enclave

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Associated Press

Posted on March 18, 2014 at 9:02 AM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 18 at 9:07 AM

RABAT, Morocco (AP) — Some 500 stone-throwing migrants from sub-Saharan Africa forced their way into the Spanish enclave of Melilla from Morocco on Tuesday in one of the biggest illegal border-crossings of recent years, Spanish and Moroccan officials said.

Moroccan police said they arrested some 250 people in two attempts by migrants to charge the border before 8 a.m., when the group of about 500 scrambled over the barbed-wire fences that separate the Mediterranean coastal city enclave from Morocco.

The Spanish Interior Ministry delegate in Melilla, Abdelmalik El Barkani, announced police reinforcements for the border, saying there was still a great number of migrants waiting for a chance to try to scale the fences.

Thousands of sub-Saharan migrants seeking a better life in Europe are living illegally in Morocco and try to enter Melilla and Spain's other Mediterranean coastal enclave, Ceuta.

More than a thousand are estimated to have made it across since the beginning of the year — roughly equal to the total for all of last year.

In the past month, assaults on the enclave have picked up pace, sometimes happening twice a week.

At least 15 migrants drowned in Moroccan waters Feb. 6 while trying to swim to Ceuta — located about 400 kilometers (250 miles) by road west of Melilla — after several hundred tried to storm the enclave's border by land.

El Barkani said 29 of those that made it across Tuesday were treated for injuries, mostly cuts.

Morocco's Interior Ministry said 28 migrants were injured by the barbed wire and were treated at the Nador hospital. It said five members of the Moroccan security forces were injured by rocks thrown by the migrants.

Those that get into the enclaves are normally placed in temporary centers while authorities try to repatriate them. Many are eventually released and simply told to leave Spain.

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Giles contributed from Madrid.

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