Immigration

Ex-Melilla chief opens his doors to 40 fleeing migrants

Exclave opposition leader accuses police of using violence in attempt to round up Africans

A cellphone image of some of the would-be immigrants fleeing the police in Melilla.

The former mayor-president of Melilla, Mustafa Aberchán, on Friday defended his decision to literally open the doors of his home to let in about 40 sub-Saharan migrants who the police were trying to detain.

At a news conference, Aberchán, a physician and leader of the opposition Melilla Coalition bloc, said he decided to give them refuge because some of them were injured after they jumped the border fence in an effort to reach Spanish territory. At least six were bleeding and others appeared to be having trouble breathing, he said.

A colleague had told Aberchán about the situation near his home, but when he tried to reach his house a police officer blocked his way telling him "you have no business here," he later explained.

"The security force [FSE] had taken over my street and there was a group of about 40 migrants that I allowed to enter my home," he said. His actions prevented the law enforcement authorities from detaining them.

He said that the police were "using violence" to try to round them up. But in the end the migrants left his home and were taken to the CETI temporary detention center.

Law enforcement authorities have not said whether they will bring charges against the former mayor-president, who served from 1999 to 2000.

Aberchán said that he did what any other citizen would have done. He also asked the authorities not to treat the sub-Saharans as criminals.

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