Hundreds of migrants stormed the border separating Spain’s Melilla enclave from Morocco today, the first such attempted mass crossing into the territory since the two nations mended diplomatic ties in March.
Melilla and Ceuta, Spain’s other tiny North African enclave, have the European Union’s only land borders with Africa, making them a magnet for migrants.
A group of over 400 migrants stormed the border fence and a “significant number” managed to get in, the Spanish government’s local delegation said in a statement.
Morocco deployed a “large” amount of forces to try to repel the assault on the border, who “cooperated actively” with Spain’s security forces, the statement added.
In March this year, Spain ended a year-long diplomatic crisis by backing Morocco’s autonomy plan for Western Sahara, going back on its decades-long stance of neutrality.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez then visited Rabat, and the two governments hailed a “new stage” in relations.
Over the years, thousands of migrants have attempted to cross the 12-kilometre border between Melilla and Morocco, or Ceuta’s eight-kilometre border, by climbing the fences, swimming along the coast or hiding in vehicles.
The two territories are protected by fences fortified with barbed wire, video cameras and watchtowers.
Claimed by Morocco, the two cities have long been a flashpoint in diplomatic relations between Rabat and Madrid, which insists both are integral parts of Spain.