Around 1,000 people were queued along Spain’s border with Morocco on Wednesday, readying a fresh attempt to jump the fence into the Spanish exclave of Melilla, government sources reported.
Three previous attempts by migrants to scale the fence en masse have already taken place in recent days, two of them in broad daylight, resulting in at least 120 people reaching Spanish soil. The government says it is expecting another attempt in the coming days.
Each year when the weather turns colder, migrants lined up along the frontier redouble their efforts to try to reach Melilla.
The autonomous city has reinforced security along the border to try to stem the tide of illegal arrivals, bringing in 40 more Civil Guard officers as well as more materials, according to the government’s delegate in Melilla, Abdelmalik El Barkani.
El Barkani recognized that illegal immigration was a “problem,” adding that the migrants were growing more and more aggressive. He said they jumped the six-meter-high fence equipped with sticks and stones, which they used to threaten civil guards.
“The majority of them have been cheated by mafias and are in a desperate situation,” he said.
Around 300 immigrants of sub-Saharan origin succeeded in jumping the barrier in the area around the Oro river at around 3pm on Tuesday. The government delegation in Melilla said around 100 of them managed to make it into the city, describing the incident as an “avalanche” and a “genuine invasion.”
Most have been cheated by mafias and are in a desperate situation”
A further 50 or so tried to scale the fence at around 11pm on Tuesday night but were forced back by Moroccan police.
The local Immigrant Temporary Stay Center (CETI) is struggling to cope with the influx of new arrivals. There are now 853 people detained in installations with a capacity for 480 and this figure is likely to go up once those who have jumped the fences in the last 48 hours have been processed.
The government delegation has opened the door to sending some of the immigrants in the CETI, which is an open center, to Immigrant Internment Centers on the mainland in the short term.
One of the immigrants taken to the CETI on Tuesday said he was from Chad and had suffered mistreatment at the hands of both Moroccan and Spanish police. A spokesman for the NGO Prodein, José Palazón, said it had collected testimony from several residents in the Farhana area, close to the site of the Tuesday afternoon incident, confirming the matter.
The government delegation denied knowledge of any mistreatment and backed up the actions of its officers. It also said none of them suffered serious injuries in the incident, though it said four had been treated for light bruising.
Collaboration with Moroccan security forces has been key to foiling migrants’ attempts to scale the fences, police sources said.
Previous attempts by sub-Saharan immigrants to cross from Morocco into Melilla en masse have on occasion proved fatal. In 2008 a man was shot by Moroccan police as he attempted to enter the exclave via the Farhana border crossing along with 80 others on New Year’s Eve.
Three years earlier, Moroccan forces killed 15 Africans during repeated mass attempts by migrants to reach Spanish soil.