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Hundreds of migrants cross Spanish border, clash with police

/ 08:09 PM February 17, 2017
Spanish police officers detain migrants from Morocco - 17 Feb 2017

Migrants sit on the ground next to Spanish police officers after storming a fence to enter the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, Spain, Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. An emergency team in Ceuta is assisting more than 300 migrants who crossed the fence surrounding Spain’s enclave in North Africa early Friday, a spokesman for the local Red Cross said. (Photo by JESUS MORON/AP)

MADRID — More than 300 migrants forced their way into Spanish territory in Northern Africa early Friday by breaking through a gate in the fence that separates Morocco from the Ceuta enclave, a spokesman from Spain’s Civil Guard said.

Three Civil Guard agents and two migrants were sent to the hospital for treatment as a result of the clashes at the Tarajal area of the fence, a spokesman said. He declined to disclose his identity in line with internal policy. At least 10 members of the Moroccan armed forces were also injured, he said.

More than 30 migrants were treated at a migrant center for bone fractures and other injuries. Some were also cut trying to scale the 6 meter (20 foot)-high fence, which is topped with barbed wire, said Clemen Nunez, director of Ceuta’s Red Cross emergency response team.

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According to the Civil Guard, a surveillance camera showed around 600 people approaching the fence about 6 a.m. local time (0500 GMT, 1p.m. PHT). They used tools and clubs to break one of the gates.

In video filmed by Faro TV Ceuta, some of the migrants can be seen with blood on their faces and bruises but mostly celebrating the arrival in Spanish territory. Some wrapped themselves with Spanish and European flags and screamed “Freedom, freedom!”

Hundreds of sub-Saharan African migrants living illegally in Morocco regularly attempt to enter Ceuta and Melilla, Spain’s other North African enclave, in hope of getting into Europe. Most are fleeing poverty, violence or both.

On Friday, 55 of them were rejected, according to the Civil Guard, because those who are intercepted on the spot can be returned to Morocco. But those that make it over the fences are usually taken to migrant centers and eventually repatriated or let go, many choosing to seek asylum or work informally in Spain or other European countries. Ceuta is separated from the rest of Spain by the Strait of Gibraltar.

Before the latest arrival, the migrant center for temporary stay in Ceuta was already struggling to cope with more than 600 people, more than 100 over its maximum capacity, and making use of military tents in nearby parking lots. –Aritz Parra

TAGS: migrants from Morocco, migrants in Spain
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