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Five migrants killed and scores injured during bid to reach Spanish enclave

About 140 Moroccan security officers were hurt during the stampede, officials said.

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Migrants climb the fences separating the Spanish enclave of Melilla from Morocco (Javier Bernardo/AP)

Migrants climb the fences separating the Spanish enclave of Melilla from Morocco (Javier Bernardo/AP)

Migrants climb the fences separating the Spanish enclave of Melilla from Morocco (Javier Bernardo/AP)

Five migrants have been killed and many others, as well as police officers, were injured during a “stampede” of people trying to cross into the Spanish North African enclave of Melilla.

About 130 migrants breached the border between Morocco and Melilla on Friday, the first such incursion since Spain and Morocco mended diplomatic relations last month.

A spokesperson for the Spanish government’s office in Melilla said about 2,000 people attempted to enter the North African city.

Morocco’s Interior Ministry said that the casualties occurred when people tried to climb the iron fence.

It said five migrants were killed and 76 injured, and 140 Moroccan security officers were hurt.

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Riot police officers cordon off the area after migrants arrive on Spanish soil (Javier Bernardo/AP)

Riot police officers cordon off the area after migrants arrive on Spanish soil (Javier Bernardo/AP)

AP/PA Images

Riot police officers cordon off the area after migrants arrive on Spanish soil (Javier Bernardo/AP)

People fleeing poverty and violence sometimes make mass attempts to reach Melilla and the other Spanish territory on the North African coast, Ceuta, as a springboard to continental Europe.

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Spain normally relies on Morocco to keep migrants away from the border.

Over two days at the beginning of March, more than 3,500 people tried to scale the 20ft barrier that surrounds Melilla and nearly 1,000 made it across, according to Spanish authorities.

Friday’s crossings were the first attempt since relations between Spain and Morocco improved in March after a year-long dispute centred on the Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony annexed by Morocco in 1976.

Morocco loosened its controls around Ceuta last year, allowing thousands of migrants to cross into Spain. The move was viewed as retaliation for Spain’s decision to allow the leader of Western Sahara’s pro-independence movement to be treated for Covid-19 at a Spanish hospital.

Tensions between the two countries began to thaw earlier this year after Spain backed Morocco’s plan to grant more autonomy to Western Sahara, where activists are seeking full independence.


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