Around 150 migrants managed to jump the border fence dividing Morocco from Spain’s North African enclave of Ceuta on Friday morning. According to official sources, the number of migrants who tried to cross into Spanish territory was even higher, but only around 150 made it past the double fence, which is six meters high, 8.4 kilometers long and topped with concertina wire.
A total of 11 Civil Guard officers were injured in the incident, according to the latest available figures from national health authorities, while dozens of migrants hurt themselves going over the barbed wire.
The rush on the fence “was conducted in a violent manner, with hand-to-hand confrontations [with officers] and using hooks, sticks and acid,” said the Civil Guard union AUGC in a statement that underscored the shortage of law enforcement resources. “This latest organized assault newly evidences the need for technical and human reinforcements in border cities, as AUGC has been demanding for years.”
The union also urged acting interior minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska to establish “a clear and unequivocal protocol of action on the borders of Ceuta and Melilla” and “to take a stand on pushback policy. It is urgent for officers to be afforded greater legal protection in the daily job they do at border crossings.”
Several migrants became caught up in the concertina wire as they tried to cross into Ceuta but were able to untangle themselves and to jump over the fence. According to the local daily El faro de Ceuta, seven of them remained stuck and began yelling “Spain, Spain!” and “Friend, friend!” while others begged the Civil Guard officers to let them pass.
Acting Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said on Monday that the Spanish government plans to remove the concertina wire on top of the border fences dividing Spain’s North African exclave cities of Ceuta and Melilla from Morocco in 2020. “We have to have more secure borders, but without concertina,” he said in a television interview with Telecinco.
The migrants made the jump into Spain from the Benzú pier, then ran at full speed to the city’s temporary migrant reception center (CETI), four kilometers away. The CETI in Ceuta is typically the first destination for migrants who jump the border fence separating Spain from Morocco. Government officials said that with these 150 newcomers, the capacity of the migrant center has been exceeded again (occupation until today was slightly under the maximum of 512).
The last time migrants jumped the fence into Ceuta on such a scale was in August 2018. On that occasion, the crossing was larger and more violent, with 602 migrants from a group of 850 making it into Spanish territory. The migrants used homemade blow torches, quicklime, sticks and sharp objects to get past officers. Several people were arrested and accused of criminal organization. The violent border crossing left 132 injured and 32 guards with bruises, burns and respiratory problems.
English version by Melissa Kitson.