Skip to main content

Would-be immigrants storm Spanish enclave on Moroccan coast

By Al Goodman, CNN
updated 2:40 PM EDT, Wed March 19, 2014
Immigrants walk between freshly erected tents in The Spanish enclave of Melilla on March 18, 2014.
Immigrants walk between freshly erected tents in The Spanish enclave of Melilla on March 18, 2014.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Would-be immigrants from Mali and Cameroon rushed en masse to try to illegally enter Spain
  • The young men climbed a section of the six-meter-tall, chain-link fence
  • About 500 made it in, and they were soon running toward an immigrant holding center in Melilla
  • On Wednesday, Madrid sent 120 additional police and civil guards to Melilla

(CNN) -- Spain sent police reinforcements to its enclave of Melilla, on Morocco's north coast, on Wednesday, after more than a thousand would-be immigrants to Europe from Mali and Cameroon rushed en masse to try to illegally enter Spain.

Under cover of dense fog, on Tuesday just before 8 a.m., the young men climbed a section of the six-meter-tall, chain-link fence that had not been reinforced, while Moroccan and Spanish security forces tried desperately to prevent them.

About 500 made it in, and they were soon running toward an overcrowded immigrant holding center in Melilla, shouting "bosa, bosa," which means "victory, victory."

It was the biggest "assault" in nearly decade, surpassing the 350 immigrants who scampered inside Melilla on a single day back in October 2005, authorities said.

2013: Spain's austerity characters suffer

On Wednesday, Madrid sent 120 additional police and civil guards to Melilla.

The Spanish government estimates there are 40,000 African migrants gathered in northern Morocco who want to enter Melilla or the other Spanish enclave, Ceuta, hundreds of miles to the east and close to the Strait of Gibraltar.

The government estimates an additional 40,000 migrants are gathered close to the border of Mauritania and Morocco, with the intention of moving north to try to enter Spain.

On March 6, Spain's Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz, on a visit to Ceuta, said the mass influx of immigrants was not just Spain's problem, but Europe's, and he called for more EU cooperation.

The immigrant-holding center in Melilla now has about 1,800 residents -- more than triple its capacity.

After Tuesday's latest influx, the Spanish Red Cross and the army hastily erected 26 tents and expanded the perimeter of the center, where the migrants get meals, showers and medical care, said Mariano Fernandez of the Red Cross.

Spanish media reported on Wednesday that the government would soon need to transfer dozens or hundreds of the immigrants to the Spanish mainland. That would put them closer to other EU countries, like France, which have minimized controls at many internal EU borders such as the Spanish-French crossings. But the government had no immediate comment about potential transfers of migrants.

The latest influx in Melilla comes as controversy swirls around the events of last February 6, when some 15 migrants drowned while trying to swim from Morocco past a retaining wall and into Ceuta.

Spanish police fired rubber bullets on that occasion, and rights groups allege this may have contributed to the deaths. The government says the rubber bullets were not aimed directly at the migrants. Later on Wednesday, a top Interior Ministry official is due to offer further explanations before Spain's parliament.

READ: How do illegal immigrants get into the European Union?

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:54 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
A decade on from devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Red Cross' Matthias Schmale says that the lessons learned have made us safer.
updated 7:24 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As soon as word broke that "The Interview" will hit some theaters, celebrations erupted across social media -- including from the stars of the film.
updated 1:44 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Did a rogue hacker -- or the U.S. government -- cut the cord for the regime's Internet?
updated 8:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Monaco's newborn royals, Princess Gabriella and Crown Prince Jacques Honore Rainier, posed for their first official photos with their parents.
updated 12:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the world wide web, gives a speech on April 18, 2012 in Lyon, central France, during the World Wide Web 2012 international conference on April 18, 2012 in Lyon.
What's next for the Internet? Acclaimed scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee shares his insights.
updated 3:22 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
The United States and North Korea have long been locked in a bitter cycle of escalating and deescalating tensions. But the current cyber conflict may be especially hard to predict.
updated 4:00 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
A chilling video shows Boko Haram executing dozens of non-Muslims.
updated 6:34 AM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
New planes, new flight tests ... but will we get cheaper airfares?
updated 12:46 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The killing of two cops could not have happened at a worse time for a city embroiled in a public battle over police-community relations, Errol Louis says.
updated 9:51 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The gateway to Japan's capital, Tokyo Station, is celebrating its centennial this month -- and it has never looked better.
updated 11:21 AM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
Unicef has warned that more than 1.7 million children in conflict-torn areas of eastern Ukraine face an "extremely serious" situation.
updated 12:01 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT