According to new updates in Morocco, the death toll following a massive attempt by a large crowd of African immigrants trying to cross the outskirts of Melilla, Spain, rose to 18 on Friday.
A local delegation of the Spanish government said in a statement that at dawn about 2,000 migrants approached Melilla and more than 500 managed to enter the border control area after cutting the fence with scissors.
Moroccan officials said late Friday that 13 migrants had died due to invasion injuries, in addition to five confirmed dead earlier in the day.
Moroccan officials said “some fell from the top of the barrier,” adding that 140 guards and 76 migrants were injured during the crossing attempt.
This was the first such major invasion since Spain and Morocco modified diplomatic relations last month.
A local delegation of the Spanish government only said that 49 Spanish police officers were slightly injured.
Morocco said in the first half of the statement that it had deployed “many” units to repel the assault on the border that “actively cooperated” with Spanish security forces.
Images of the Spanish media show exhausted immigrants lying on the pavement of Melilla, some wearing bloody hands and torn clothes.
Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez spoke in Brussels, accusing him of “violent assault” accusing him of “the mafia trafficking in humans.”
Melilla and Ceuta, Spain’s other small North African outposts, have the only European Union border with Africa and are attractive to immigrants.
Immigrants and security forces “clashed” on the Moroccan side of the border Thursday night, Omar Naji of Moroccan rights group AMDH told AFP.
He added that some of them were hospitalized in Nador.
In March of this year, Spain ended the year-long diplomatic crisis by supporting Morocco’s autonomy plan for Western Sahara, which has returned to its decades of neutrality.
Sanchez then visited Rabat and the two governments welcomed the “new stage” of the relationship.
This line began in April 2021 when Madrid allowed Brahimgari, the leader of the Independent Polisario Front in Western Sahara, to treat Covid-19 in a Spanish hospital.
A month later, about 10,000 migrants crossed the Moroccan border to Ceuta, Spain, as the border guards turned in the opposite direction, as was widely seen as a disciplinary gesture by Rabat. It has increased rapidly.
Rabat wants Western Sahara to be self-governing under Moroccan sovereignty, but the Polisario Front wants a referendum under UN supervision on self-determination, as agreed in the 1991 Armistice Agreement. ..
In the days just before Morocco and Spain corrected their relationship, there were several attempts to cross the migrants to Melilla. Some of them involved the largest number of 2,500 people on record. Nearly 500 crossed it.
-‘Means of pressure’-
Strengthening relations with Morocco, the starting point for many immigrants, meant a reduction in arrivals, especially in Spain’s Atlantic Canary Islands.
According to government statistics, the number of migrants arriving in the Canary Islands in April was 70% less than in February.
“Spain will not tolerate the use of the tragedy of illegal immigrants as a means of pressure,” Sanchez warned earlier this month.
Spain will try to cite “illegal immigrants” as one of NATO’s southern security threats when the alliance holds a summit meeting in Madrid on June 29-30.
Over the years, thousands of migrants have climbed fences, swam along the coast, and hid in cars, on the 12 km (7.5 miles) border between Melilla and Morocco, or 8 km in Ceuta. I tried to cross the border.
The two territories are protected by barbed wire-reinforced fences, video cameras and gazebos.
Immigrants sometimes use hooks and sticks to climb border fences and try to throw stones at the police.