More than 100 migrants manage to jump border fence into Spain

Seven Civil Guard officers were injured in the incident in the North African exclave of Ceuta. Less than a month ago, another 602 people made the crossing

Migrants celebrate their arrival in Ceuta.
Migrants celebrate their arrival in Ceuta.Joaquín Sánchez
Jesús A. Cañas

More than 100 migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa this morning jumped over the border fence separating Morocco from the Spanish North African exclave of Ceuta. According to the Civil Guard Union (AUGC), seven Civil Guard officers were injured in the incident, and a yet-to-be-determined number of migrants were also hurt. At least one Civil Guard officer was taken to hospital, AUGC reported.

According to sources from the central government’s delegation in Ceuta, 115 people crossed the fence at Finca Berrocal, one of the weakest sections along the border due to blind spots where cameras cannot detect migrants. It is the same point where 602 migrants made a violent coordinated jump on July 26. Around 300 people took part in today’s attempt.

According to a Civil Guard officer, “fewer than 10 officers” were guarding the border fence

As in the July attempt, the migrants used shears to cut through the fence and threw “quicklime, battery acid and feces” at officers, according to sources from the government delegation.

“Some jumped and others have crossed through,” said one Civil Guard officer, who described the incident as “violent and aggressive.”

The jump coincided with celebrations for the Islamic holiday Eid al-Adha in Morocco, a date that is also a holiday in Ceuta.

African migrants celebrate as they enter the CETI immigrant center in Ceuta.
African migrants celebrate as they enter the CETI immigrant center in Ceuta.FABIAN BIMMER (REUTERS)

“It happened just as the prayer before the animal sacrifice was being said,” explained the Civil Guard officer.

Given many officers were on summer vacations and the fact that it was a regional holiday, “fewer than 10 officers” were guarding the border fence, they added. For months associations such as AUGC have been calling for more resources to guard the double fence, which is six meters high, 8.4 kilometers long and topped with razor wire.

Once the migrants entered Ceuta, they headed toward a local Temporary Immigration Detention Center (CETI), yelling “Boza! Boza!” which means “victory” in the Fula language. Some of the locals celebrating Eid al-Adha provided the new arrivals with water and food.

Red Cross ambulances, which had been observing the morning prayer, were forced to leave their station and urgently go to the CETI to treat the migrants who had cuts, mild bruising and other injuries.

While Spanish news agency EFE estimated the number of arrivals to be around 200, the government delegation has only accounted for 115 people, but it is yet to complete the final count. The latest mass jump means that more than 800 migrants have entered Ceuta in less than a month, putting extra strain on the CETI’s already over-stretched services.

More than 800 migrants have crossed the fence into Ceuta in less than a month

The center has capacity for 512 immigrants but took in 1,200 people after last month’s violent crossing. The Spanish army has had to put up tents in an adjoining space to cater for the surging numbers. With 115 more migrants arriving today, the center is now caring for around 1,300 people. Sources from the government delegation confirmed that 80 migrants are scheduled to be transferred to the Spanish peninsula tomorrow.

Today’s crossing comes amid a heated political debate on how to address the rise in migrant arrivals.The number of undocumented migrants arriving in Spain has doubled since last year and Spain is now the main entry point into Europe, above Italy and Greece. But shelter services have been unable to keep up with the demand, leaving many migrants to sleep in overcrowded centers, police stations and even on the decks of ships.

Popular Party (PP) leader Pablo Casado has said Spain needs a tougher immigration policy to deter “the millions of Africans who come looking for a better future in Europe” – a sentiment that has alarmed the European Commission.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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