The border separating the Spanish territory of Melilla and Morocco witnessed a state of chaos on Friday, resulting in the deaths of five migrants after more than 2,000 migrants attempted to storm the border, reported Associated Press.
According to AP, five Africans were killed, and dozens of migrants were injured in the first attempt of its kind to cross into Spanish territory since the repair of diplomatic relations between Madrid and Rabat in March 2022.
A spokesperson for the Spanish government office in Melilla confirmed that about 2,000 people tried to cross, but the Spanish police and Moroccan forces stopped many on both sides of the border fence.
The Moroccan Interior Ministry announced in a statement that the victims fell while trying to climb over the iron fence. It added that five migrants were killed and 76 wounded, while 140 Moroccan security officers were injured.
Spanish officials disclosed that 49 Civil Guards sustained minor injuries, and 57 migrants had to be treated, three of whom were in hospital.
Videos and photos circulating showed chaotic scenes at the European Union (EU)’s only land border with Africa, where thousands of migrants were seen running through a field before storming the border fence on Friday morning.
The video also showed migrants chanting and raising their arms in celebration as they ran through the streets of Melilla after storming the fence.
Melilla and Ceuta, another small Spanish enclave in North Africa, have the EU’s only land border with Africa, making them a magnet for migrants.
There are fears that a drought in Africa and soaring food prices – even prior to the war, which hindered shipments of Ukrainian grain to Somalia, Egypt and other developing countries – could increase the number of migrants fleeing to Europe.
Friday’s crossings were the first attempt since relations between Spain and Morocco improved in March, after a year-long dispute focused on Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony that Morocco annexed in 1976.
Morocco eased its control of Ceuta last year, allowing thousands of migrants to cross into Spain. The move was seen as retaliation for Spain’s decision to allow the pro-independence leader of the Polisario Front to be treated for COVID-19 in a Spanish hospital.
Tensions between the two countries began to ease earlier this year after Spain backed Morocco’s plan to give Western Sahara more autonomy.