Published September 19, 2013
MADRID (AFP) – African migrants charged a barbed-wire border fence and tried to enter the Spanish exclave of Melilla from Morocco on Thursday, local officials said, the latest in a string of coordinated assaults on the frontier.
About 200 migrants tried to pass over the fenced border at dawn but it was not immediately clear if any of them managed to make it through to Melilla, a Spanish-governed territory bordering northern Morocco, a spokesman for the Spanish government there told AFP.
In the past few days hundreds of sub-Saharan African migrants have tried to enter Melilla and Ceuta, Spain's other north African territory, in similar border assaults.
The most spectacular border assault took place on Tuesday in Melilla when about 300 migrants tore down part of the six-metre (20-foot) high fence around Melilla and about 100 made it through.
While some of the immigrants climbed the fence, others threw objects at border guards who were trying to stop them.
Police video images showed dozens of migrants scrambling over the fence and starting to run as soon as they hit Spanish soil.
In a separate incident on the same day, another 350 people, described as migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, tried to reach Ceuta by swimming to one of its beaches from a nearby Moroccan shore.
Spain is one of the main entry points in Europe for illegal migrants from Africa.
Hundreds of migrants seeking access to Europe camp around Ceuta and Melilla hoping for a chance to cross into the territories.
Human rights groups say the migrants are brought to Morocco from other African countries by traffickers and camp in the wild while waiting for a chance to cross.
Others try to reach Spanish soil by sailing across the Mediterranean in makeshift vessels. On Monday officials said one migrant was found dead and a dozen were missing after their boat capsized in the attempt.
Ceuta and Melilla have the European Union's only land borders with Africa.
The two territories have long been a flashpoint in Moroccan and Spanish diplomatic relations.
Rabat has always considered Ceuta and Melilla to be part of its territory, although they have been under Spanish control for more than 400 years.