Around a dozen immigrants died off the coast of Ceuta while trying to cross the border into the Spanish exclave on Thursday, local government sources reported, although the exact number of fatalities had not been confirmed at press time. The tragedy occurred as they attempted to reach a seawall that separates the territory from Morocco.
So far, nine bodies have been recovered by the Moroccan authorities — eight men and one woman. Reports suggest that four died in a crush, and another four drowned, “just a few meters from the shore.”
Civil Guard sources said reports of rubber bullets being fired were “false,” although Moroccan and Spanish security forces used riot gear to repel the entry attempt. The would-be immigrants were at all times on the Moroccan side of the border, the sources said.
Some 200 undocumented migrants unsuccessfully tried to make it into Ceuta through the beach area known as El Tarajal in the early hours of Thursday morning, authorities said, in the first massive border crossing attempt reported this year. El Tarajal is the site of the only official border crossing between Morocco and Ceuta and is heavily fortified. Some of the immigrants reported a violent confrontation and displayed injuries. The Civil Guard reported being pelted with rocks.
During a scheduled tribute to the victims of the Holocaust on Thursday morning, the head of the Ceuta government, Juan Vivas, called for a minute of silence for the “eight sub-Saharans” who had lost their lives. Vivas cited information given to him by the central government delegate in Ceuta, Francisco Antonio González. Spokespersons from the Popular Party and the Socialists expressed their sadness at the fatalities.
During the border crossing attempt, some 400 migrants broke up into two groups with one trying to reach Ceuta by foot at El Tarajal and the other diving into the sea in a desperate attempt to escape Moroccan authorities.