Spain: Hundreds of migrants break through Melilla border fence | migration news

The mass crossing is the first since Spain and Morocco resolved a diplomatic dispute over Western Sahara.

Hundreds of migrants crossed the border separating the Spanish enclave of Melilla from Morocco, the first mass crossing attempt since the two countries mended diplomatic ties in March.

“A large group of sub-Saharans [Africans] … invaded the access gate of the Barrio Chino border post and entered Melilla by jumping over the roof of the checkpoint,” the Spanish government delegation in the area said in a statement on Friday.

“All of them [are] men and apparently adults,” he added. The migrants arrived at the crossing at around 6:40 am local time (04:40 GMT) and the crossing took place at 8:40 am (06:40 GMT).

Melilla and Ceuta, Spain’s other small North African enclaves, share the European Union’s only land borders with Africa, making them a magnet for migrants.

Morocco sent a “large” number of forces to try to repel the crowd from the border and “actively cooperated” with Spain’s security forces, the delegation said in a separate statement.

Images in Spanish media showed exhausted migrants lying on the pavement in Melilla, some with bloodied hands and torn clothes.

In March of this year, Spain ended a year-long diplomatic crisis by supporting Morocco’s autonomy plan for Western Sahara, returning to its decades-long position of neutrality.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez visited Rabat, and the two governments hailed a “new stage” in relations.

The fight started when Madrid allowed Brahim Ghali, leader of the pro-independence Polisario Front of Western Sahara, to be treated for COVID-19 in a Spanish hospital in April 2021.

A month later, some 10,000 migrants crossed the Moroccan border into the Spanish enclave of Ceuta as border guards looked the other way, in what was widely seen as a punitive gesture by Rabat.

Rabat calls for Western Sahara to have autonomous status under Moroccan sovereignty, but the Polisario movement of Western Sahara wants a UN-supervised referendum on self-determination, as agreed in a 1991 ceasefire agreement.

In the days leading up to the end of the diplomatic crisis between Morocco and Spain, there were several attempts at mass crossings by migrants in Melilla, including one involving 2,500 people, the largest attempt on record.

The restoration of Spanish ties with Morocco meant a drop in arrivals. The number of migrants arriving in the Canary Islands in April was 70% lower than in February, government figures show.

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