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Morocco says hundreds migrants stormed border of Spanish enclave

Source: Reuters - Tue, 18 Mar 2014 13:18 GMT
Author: Reuters
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RABAT, March 18 (Reuters) - Hundreds of migrants tried to force their way into Spain's North African enclave of Melilla in two attempted mass crossings during the night on Tuesday, throwing stones at police who tried to stop them, the Moroccan government said.

Nearly 300 were arrested and at least 28 were injured in the two attempts, the Moroccan Interior Ministry said. The last such mass crossing of Melilla's heavily protected border took place in late February.

Spain has two enclaves in Morocco, Ceuta and Melilla, and migrants from all over Africa regularly try to reach them either by swimming along the coast or climbing the triple walls that separate them from Morocco. Deaths and injuries are common.

Earlier in February the European Union asked Spain to explain why police fired rubber bullets in warning when a group of African migrants tried to wade and swim to Ceuta. Fourteen men died when the shots caused panic among the immigrants.

"At 7 am, 600 illegal migrants tried to force the crossing to the occupied enclave of Melilla at Oued Tighorafine point, in the rural area of Beni Chiguer," the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

The area of Beni Chiguer is covered in shrubbery which migrants use to hide beneath in the daytime before making their attempted crossing by night.

Migrants ignored warnings of security forces on the scene and injured five police officers by throwing stones, the ministry said. About 120 migrants were arrested, including 28 who were injured and hospitalised in the city of Nador, it added.

A source from the interior ministry declined to say how many had managed to enter the Spanish enclave.

Earlier in the night another group of migrants tried to storm the triple fence surrounding Melilla and 150 were arrested, the statement added.

More and more migrants are trying to get to Ceuta and Melilla in a bid to reach Spain, preferring to go by land rather than by sea, where controls have increased.

Many are still trying to enter Europe by sea, however. Last month, the Italian navy rescued more than 1,100 migrants from nine rafts in the waters south of Sicily.

(Reporting By Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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