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Hundreds of migrants storm border fence in Spain's Melilla

Published June 24,2022

Hundreds of migrants stormed the border separating Spain's Melilla enclave from Morocco on Friday, 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 at 8:40 am Friday and a "significant number" managed to get in, the the Spanish government's local delegation said in a statement.

The migrants, from sub-Saharan Africa, were "perfectly organised and violent" it added.

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.

Madrid and Rabat ended a year-long diplomatic crisis after Spain supported Morocco's autonomy plan for Western Sahara -- a disputed territory mostly controlled by Rabat, but claimed by the Polisario Front.

Madrid had angered Morocco by allowing the leader of Western Sahara's independence movement into Spain last year for hospital treatment for a severe case of Covid-19, sparking a standoff between the two countries.

And in mid-May Spain was caught off guard when more than 10,000 people swam or used small inflatable boats to cross into Ceuta territory as the Moroccan border forces looked the other way in what was seen as retaliation by Rabat.

Over the years, thousands of migrants have attempted to cross the 12-kilometre (7.5-mile) 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.