“Five migrants died in stampedes and falling from the fence” that separates the enclave from Moroccan territory, authorities in the Moroccan province of Nador said in a statement.
A total of 76 other migrants were injured, 13 of them seriously, as well as 140 members of the Moroccan security forces, five of them seriously, during “this assault, marked by the use of very violent methods by migrants “, according to the same source.
Contacted by AFP, the Spanish Civil Guard, which monitors the other side of the fence, assured that it had no information on this tragedy, referring to Morocco.
The prefecture of Melilla only indicated for its part that 49 Spanish law enforcement officers had been slightly injured on Friday at the border, as were 57 migrants in “various degrees”, three of whom had to be taken care of. within the hospital of the Spanish enclave.
Located on the northern coast of Morocco, Melilla and the other Spanish enclave of Ceuta are the EU’s only land borders on the African continent and are regularly subject to attempted entry by migrants seeking to reach the ‘Europe.
This massive entry attempt began around 6:40 a.m. when a group of “nearly 2,000 migrants (…) began to approach Melilla”, according to the prefecture. “More than 500” of them “from sub-Saharan African countries” then forced the entry of the border post with “shears”, added the prefecture, according to which 133 managed to return.
Traveling to Brussels for an EU summit, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez denounced a “violent assault” fomented by “mafias who traffic in human beings”.
Omar Naji, of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH), assured AFP that “clashes” had taken place overnight from Thursday to Friday between migrants and Moroccan agents, and that injured each side had to be hospitalized in Nador.
– EU land border –
This massive entry attempt into one of the two Spanish enclaves is the first since the normalization of relations between Madrid and Rabat in mid-March, after a diplomatic quarrel lasting almost a year.
The crisis between the two countries had been caused by the reception in Spain of the leader of the Sahrawi separatists of the Polisario Front, Brahim Ghali, in April 2021, to be treated there for Covid-19.
It culminated in the entry in May 2021 of more than 10,000 migrants in 24 hours in Ceuta, thanks to a relaxation of controls on the Moroccan side. Madrid then denounced an “aggression” on the part of Rabat, which had recalled its ambassador to Spain.
Pedro Sanchez put an end to this estrangement by publicly supporting the Moroccan autonomy plan for Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony 80% controlled by Rabat but claimed by the Polisario, supported by Algeria. In early April, King Mohammed VI received him in Rabat to seal this reconciliation.
For Madrid, the main purpose of this normalization is to ensure Rabat’s “cooperation” in controlling illegal immigration.
Highly criticized internally for his reversal on the Sahara, Mr. Sanchez welcomed Friday the “extraordinary cooperation” of Rabat in migration matters which demonstrates, according to him, “the need to have the best of relations”.
– Drop in arrivals –
Just before this reconciliation, Melilla had been the scene in early March of several massive entry attempts, including the largest ever recorded in this enclave, with some 2,500 migrants. Nearly 500 made it that day.
Morocco, from where most of the migrants leave for Spain, has been regularly accused in the past of using them as a means of pressure on Spain.
The calming of relations with Morocco has led to a recent drop in arrivals to Spain.
According to the Interior Ministry, the number of migrants arriving in the Spanish archipelago of the Canary Islands in April, the first month following normalization, was 70% lower than in February.