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More than 700 migrants make violent border crossing into Ceuta

Homemade blow torches and quicklime were used to get past officers and into the Spanish exclave in North Africa

Migrants show their wounded hands after jumping the border fence.
Migrants show their wounded hands after jumping the border fence.

A group of over 700 undocumented migrants made a coordinated jump over the border fence separating Morocco from the Spanish enclave of Ceuta on Thursday morning, according to Civil Guard figures. The government delegate in Ceuta said that 602 of them made it through to Spanish territory.

Migrants used homemade blow torches, quicklime, sticks and sharp objects against the police, in what has been described as one of the largest and most violent border crossings in recent years.

Hundreds of migrants were stopped on Moroccan soil, while another group was immediately returned there in an instance of pushback policy that the new Socialist administration of Pedro Sánchez has pledged to eliminate. The government is also analyzing less dangerous alternatives to the concertina wire currently topping the double fence, which is six meters high and 8.4 kilometers long.

A migrant injured by the barbed border fence.
A migrant injured by the barbed border fence.

A total of 132 migrants required medical assistance, as well as 22 police officers who suffered respiratory problems as a result of the quicklime and homemade sprays. Four officers sustained severe burns, said the Red Cross. Eleven migrants were taken to Ceuta University Hospital due to fractures and wounds caused by the wire.

According to police, the group jumped over the fence at around 6am at Finca Berrocal, one of the weakest sections along the border because there are blind spots where cameras cannot detect migrants. For more than an hour, police and Civil Guard officers tried to contain the group but were overtaken by the migrants who used battery-powered radial saws to cut the fence and homemade weapons to get past the officers.

The migrants who made it into to Ceuta ran through the streets, kissing the ground and crying out in joy. The group headed for a local Temporary Immigration Detention Center (CETI), which is already 15% above capacity.

Migrants in Ceuta.
Migrants in Ceuta.

Since the crossing, police officers have arrested hundreds of people on the Moroccan side of the border and the Spanish Civil Guard has also sent reinforcements to the area.

In September 2017, former Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido told Congress that 8,956 migrants had illegally crossed into Spain by jumping the border fence into Ceuta.

English version by Melissa Kitson and Susana Urra.

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