Officials send back dozens of migrants after mass fence jumping at Morocco border

Authorities in Spain’s north African enclave of Melilla said they have returned dozens of more than 200 Moroccan migrants who jumped a fence over the weekend.

More than 50 African migrants were sent back to Morocco over the weekend after they attempted to scale a border fence in Morocco. File Photo by Emilio Morenatti/EPA-EFE
More than 50 African migrants were sent back to Morocco over the weekend after they attempted to scale a border fence in Morocco. File Photo by Emilio Morenatti/EPA-EFE

The Delegation of Government in Melilla, the Spanish authority of the 4.7-square-mile enclave, confirmed that 55 of those who jumped the fence on Sunday were sent back to Morocco — while 140 said they wanted to request asylum and were transferred to a center for immigrants, Spanish newspaper El Pais reported.

Those sent back to Morocco were sent to the port of Beni Enzar, some 6 miles from Melilla. Five people remain hospitalized in Melilla while another five need rest, officials said. Three minors will remain in Melilla, the newspaper said.

Officials also said one migrant who climbed the fence died of natural causes. Doctors could not find any injury but located a congenital pulmonary condition.

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According to El Pais, the Moroccan Human Rights Association in Nador reported Sunday the death of a person who’d attempted to jump the fence and fell on the Moroccan side. Twenty others were injured.

The second death could not be independently confirmed with the organization.

A separate press report quoted Moroccan sources reporting that 12 military members were injured in an assault by 300 people who tried to cross the fence. It said about 100 were not able to make it through.

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Melilla is one of two Spanish cities in mainland Africa. The other is Ceuta. Morocco has officially claimed both in the past and disputed Spain’s construction of fences there.

Crossings from Morocco to the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla have increased in recent years, along with other migration from North Africa to Europe including sea crossings that reach Italy and Malta.

ByRenzo Pipoli