MADRID: About 500 African migrants leapt a towering, triple-layer border fence to cross from Morocco to the tiny Spanish territory of Melilla yesterday, one of the biggest breaches in nearly a decade, officials said.
At least 1,000 sub-Saharan Africans had joined in the pre-dawn attempt to enter Melilla, one of two Spanish-held cities on the northern coast of Africa affording the only land crossings to Europe, they said.
Night-time video images released by the Spanish Guardia Civil police showed scores of young men leaping over the inner layer of seven-metre high border fencing, which had partly collapsed, and then running into Melilla.
“We calculate that about 500 managed to enter by irregular means into our territory,” said Spain’s state secretary for security, Francisco Martinez, who made an emergency visit to Melilla following the intrusion.
“Once again, we see that the assaults were violent on the Moroccan side,” he said.
Martinez called on the European Union to play a “much more active role” in securing the bloc’s southern borders.
Criminal organisations appeared to have planned the border breach, he said, targeting weak areas of the fencing that had yet to be strengthened.
An extra 100 Spanish police reinforcements would arrive later in the day to help secure the border while the installation of anti-climb fencing would be accelerated, he said.
Moreover, Moroccan authorities said yesterday that a boat carrying 11 people, mostly from Cameroon, had capsized off the Moroccan coast while heading for Spain. AFP