18 dead and 76 injured as 1000s of African migrants storm Spanish exclave of Melilla

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Eighteen African migrants are dead and 76 injured after a mass storming of the Spanish exclave of Melilla in North Africa.

A Spanish government spokesperson said about 2,000 migrants attempted to cross, and 133 managed to breach the border of the Spanish territory, according to Associated Press. Those who made it through proceeded to a local migrant center where Spanish authorities are evaluating their cases. 

Surrounded by Morocco, Melilla is a five-square-mile territory on the eastern side of a rocky peninsula on the Mediterranean Sea. Both Melilla and Ceuta—a similarly-situated Spanish territory—have been subjected to periodic border-storming over the years.

The two autonomous Spanish territories present migrants with the only land borders between Africa and the European Union, making them appealing targets for those who would otherwise have to attempt a Mediterranean crossing.

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“A large group of sub-Saharans [Africans]…broke through the access gate of the Barrio Chino border checkpoint and entered Melilla by jumping over the roof of the checkpoint,” local Spanish government authorities said in a statement. All of them were reportedly adult men; the stampede began at 6:40 am local time.  


The rest of the horde was repelled by the efforts of Spanish Civil Guard police and Moroccan security forces working both sides of the border fence. According to Moroccan authorities, the casualties occurred when migrants attempted to scale the iron fence.

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In what Al Jazeera characterized as a “violent, two-hour skirmish,” 49 members of the Spanish Civil Guard police were also injured. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said “human trafficking militias” had orchestrated “a well-organized, violent assault.”

A Moroccan human rights organization suggested to Reuters that the mass border-breaching attempt was prompted by Morocco’s “intense crackdown” on migrants and, specifically, an effort to clear migrant camps in a nearby forest on the day before. 


In a March onslaught, Spanish police weren’t nearly as successful: close to 1,000 migrants breached the border in a stamped said to number more than 3,500.  


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