Morocco: 5 migrants dead in stampede at Melilla attempt. to enter

RABAT, Morocco (AP) – Five Africans trying to cross into Spain were killed and dozens of migrants and police injured in what Moroccan authorities called a “rush” by people who crossed Morocco’s border fence with Spain’s northern border on Friday. African enclave of Melilla stormed .

A total of 133 migrants broke the border between the Moroccan city of Nador and Melilla on Friday, the first mass crossing since Spain and Morocco re-established diplomatic relations last month. A spokesman for the Spanish government office in Melilla said about 2,000 people tried to cross the road, but many were stopped by Spanish Civil Guard police and Moroccan troops on either side of the border fence.

Morocco’s interior ministry said in a statement that the victims were killed when people tried to climb the iron fence. It said five migrants were killed and 76 injured, and 140 Moroccan security officers were injured. The injured have been hospitalized in Nador, it says.

Spanish officials said 49 vigilantes suffered minor injuries and 57 migrants needed treatment, three of them in hospital. No one is in serious condition. Four police vehicles were damaged by stones thrown by some migrants.

Those who managed to cross went to a local migrant center, where authorities were assessing their conditions.

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

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

In early March, more than 3,500 people attempted to climb the six-meter barrier around Melilla in two days, and nearly 1,000 have crossed it, according to Spanish authorities.

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

Morocco last year relaxed its controls around Ceuta, allowing thousands of migrants to enter Spain. The move was seen as retaliation for Spain’s decision to allow the leader of the Western Saharan independence movement to be treated for COVID-19 in a Spanish hospital.

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

Ciarán Giles reported from Madrid.

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