Spanish nurses attending to some of the migrants who made it into Melilla. / EFE

At least 18 immigrants die during first mass attempt on Melilla border since Spain’s diplomatic crisis with Morocco ended in March

Around 2,000 people from the sub-Sahara region attempted to break through the access gate to the Spanish border post and there are reports of 18 dead and 13 seriously injured immigrants on the Moroccan side of the fence

MELCHOR SÁIZ-PARDO Madrid

This morning, Friday 24 June, Melilla experienced the first mass influx of immigrants since the diplomatic crisis between Spain and Morocco came to an end in March, despite the efforts made by Moroccan security forces to prevent them crossing the border into Spanish territory.

Sources in Morocco have confirmed that at least 18 immigrants died and 76 were injured, 13 seriously, on their side of the border as they were crushed or suffocated in a trench near the fence. Authorities in Rabat said that 140 members of the Moroccan security forces were also injured as they attempted to stop the assault on the border.

The group, which appeared to be well-organised and reported to have been very violent, was made up of about 2,000 people, although most were held back.

The crowd was first spotted at 6.40am as they approached the border fence. The Guardia Civil’s anti-intrusion protocol was immediately activated and dozens of officers, together with National Police and Moroccan police officers were mobilised, but this was not enough to stop some of the immigrants breaking through the gate a couple of hours later and entering Spanish territory by jumping over the border control building. Some were injured in the attempt. They are all now being held at the Temporary Stay Centre in Melilla. Spain has reported a total of 106 injuries, including both immigrants and members of the Guardia Civil.

On Thursday about 120 Moroccan police officers were injured when they tried to stop a group of around 50 immigrants getting over the border fence in the same area. One was admitted to the intensive care unit of a hospital in Nador.

The same group had also tried to break through a cordon of Moroccan police in the early hours of Saturday morning, and around 100 officers were injured on that occasion.