TIME Africa

Migrants Storm Border Fence to Hop From Africa to Europe

Sub-Saharan migrants scale a metallic fence that divides Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Melilla, early on May 28, 2014.
Sub-Saharan migrants scale a metallic fence that divides Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Melilla, early on May 28, 2014. Santi Palacios—AP

Some 400 African migrants are estimated to have successfully scaled a border fence between Morocco and the Spanish territory of Melilla on Wednesday, crossing from Africa to Europe

A thousand migrants stormed and attempted to scale a 20-foot-high border fence between Morocco and the Spanish territory of Melilla before dawn on Wednesday, its mayor said, with about 400 estimated to have successfully hopped from Africa into Europe.

Melilla is one of Spain’s guarded but vulnerable enclaves on Morocco’s northern coast that has become a hub for sub-Saharan migrants, many from Somalia and Eritrea, who want to seek asylum or work in Europe.

Wednesday’s incident is the latest in a tide of dangerous and sometimes deadly attempts by large groups of African migrants to enter Melilla and Ceuta, another Spanish enclave nearby, the European Union’s only land borders with Africa.

About 140 of the approximately 700 migrants who charged the barbed-wire fence in Melilla on May 1 slipped past security officers, resulting in some injuries. And clashes erupted in February when more than 300 migrants stormed it—a third of them successfully—leading to some 96 arrests.

The BBC reports that some of the migrants who crossed over on Wednesday are likely to spend months or years at a temporary immigration center in Melilla, which now houses five times the amount of people it was meant to hold. Others are expected to be transferred to additional centers in Spain or returned to their home countries.

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