18 migrants die when numerous people try to get to the Spanish exclave of Melilla via Morocco. 100 to 200 are injured trying to cross over. A rapprochement between the two countries could change the situation in the future.
After the rush of around 2,000 migrants to the Spanish enclave of Melilla in Morocco, the death toll rose to 18, initially five fatalities were reported. The authorities in the Moroccan province of Nador said on Saturday night that 13 other people had died from injuries sustained when they tried to climb the meter-high border fence. As the representation of the Spanish government in Melilla announced, the migrants stormed the border fence in the morning. 130 people from the countries south of the Sahara had penetrated into the exclave.
According to a representative of the Moroccan authorities, five migrants died trying to climb the border fence. Some fell from above the fence. He spoke of more than 200 injured, including 140 members of the security staff and more than 70 migrants. The Spanish authorities said 57 migrants were injured. 49 Spanish police officers were slightly injured.
The border fences are equipped with barbed wire, video cameras and guard platforms. Images in Spanish media showed images of migrants lying exhausted on the sidewalk, some with bleeding hands and torn clothing. Ceuta and Melilla, which form the only EU land borders in Africa, are regular destinations for people hoping for a better life in Europe.
In recent years, thousands of migrants have attempted to cross the 12 km Melilla-Morocco border or the 8 km Ceuta-Morocco border by climbing fences, swimming or hiding in cars. The migrants sometimes use hooks and sticks to climb the border fence.
The Spanish government made a diplomatic change of course in March after a long dispute over Morocco's Western Sahara policy. Madrid recognized the Moroccan autonomy plan for the disputed area, which envisages, among other things, offering Western Sahara autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty.
Since then, ferry connections between Spain and Morocco have been resumed and police cooperation programs have been launched in the Spanish exclaves, among other places. Before the dispute was settled, there had been cases in which the Moroccan side was accused of allowing migrants to march unhindered towards Ceuta and Melilla.