Tue, Jan 03, 2017 - Page 7 News List

Refugees try to storm border into Ceuta

ENTRY POINT:Two refugees were hospitalized in the Spanish enclave, while five Spanish police and 50 from Morocco were injured after the refugees rushed the gates

Reuters, MADRID

A refugee stands on top of a border fence as Spanish police stand guard below during a failed attempt to cross into Spanish territories, between Morocco and Spain’s north African enclave of Ceuta, on Sunday.

Photo: Reuters

At least 800 sub-Saharan African migrants on Sunday tried to cross into Spain’s North African enclave of Ceuta from Morocco by storming a border fence, though most were eventually turned back, the Spanish and Moroccan governments said.

Dozens of refugees made it to the top of the 6m barbed wire fence before being lifted down by cranes, footage from local TV station Faro TV showed.

Spain said about 1,100 refugees attempted the crossing. Only two were allowed into Ceuta to be taken to hospital while the rest were returned to Morocco, the Spanish government said in a statement.

Five Spanish police and 50 from Morocco were injured, the government added, after refugees used rocks and metal bars to try and break through gates to access the fence, and clashed with authorities.

Morocco’s Ministry of the Interior reported that about 800 refugees had tried to storm the enclave and that all had been arrested.

It said 10 members of its security forces were seriously wounded.

“From now on those making such attempts will be presented before the competent judicial authorities who will decree their expulsion from the kingdom [of Morocco] or heavier penalties, according the gravity of the act,” the ministry said in a statement.

Spain’s two enclaves in Morocco, Ceuta and Melilla, are often used as entry points into Europe for African refugees, who either climb over their border fences or try to swim along the coast.

Spain has drawn criticism from human rights groups for allowing some refugees to be immediately turned back to Morocco in such incidents.

They say that skipping the lengthier deportation procedures deprives people of the opportunity to claim asylum.

In early last month more than 400 sub-Saharan African refugees managed to force their way over the Ceuta border fence.

However, Libya has become a more common departure point for African refugees, most of whom come from sub-Saharan countries and attempt the crossing to Italy by boat.

Last year was the deadliest year ever for refugees in the Mediterranean, with about 5,000 deaths, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Separately on Sunday, Spanish police said a Moroccan woman was arrested in Ceuta last week for trying to smuggle a 19-year-old refugee from Gabon across the border with Spain curled up inside a suitcase.

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