A record number of immigrants managed to get into Melilla on Tuesday, after forcing their way across the frontier fence. About 500 people arrived on Spanish soil after crossing the triple metal fence, which is more than six metres high and which separates the town from Morocco, despite the efforts of police officers from both countries to stop them. Nothing like this has been seen since almost nine years ago, when 350 immigrants succeeded in crossing the border which at that time was considerably less protected. Those who arrived on Tuesday were half of all the immigrants who have managed to cross since January in seven different incidents.
The thick fog that covered Melilla early in the morning, which reduced visibility to little more than two metres, was the immigrants’ best ally. At 07.55, in full daylight, just over a thousand people from the Sub-Sahara, armed with stones and sticks, launched themselves at the stretch of fence that runs along the valley of the Nano river, close to the northern border of the town, and about half of them were successful.
Would-be immigrants make a careful study of the frontier to ascertain its weakest points and these made their assault on an area where no razor wire has been installed by the Spanish authorities. The barbed wire which is present caused cuts to the Sub-Saharans’ hands and feet, but did not stop them crossing.
The assault took place after a night on which the Guardia Civil and the Moroccan forces were on alert at the border because at least two groups of about 300 and 700 Sub-Saharans respectively had tried to get close to the frontier at approximately 11 o’clock on Monday night.
Sources at the Hassani hospital in Nador say that dozens of immigrants were injured while trying to cross the frontier, and at least two of them were admitted with serious lesions. On the Spanish side, more than one hundred arrived at the already overcrowded ‘Centro de Estancia Temporal de Inmigrantes’ (CETI) with cuts to their hands and feet and some had suffered serious injuries including fractures.
“Our hands are tied”
The ‘Asociación Unificada de Guardias Civiles’ (Asugc) described the assault on the frontier as “massive” and complains that its members’ “hands are tied” with no protocol to enable them to intervene. Meanwhile José Palazón, the president of the Prodein NGO, pointed out that numerous people had been injured by the barbed wire and insisted that the Moroccan forces had used extreme violence in trying to prevent the immigrants crossing into Spanish territory.