Saturday, March 01, 2014

Breaking into freedom

Ten years ago Spain spent more than 30 million euros building up the barriers around Melilla and Ceuta, its two enclaves surrounded by Morocco on the northern coast of Africa, which offer the only land borders between the promise of Europe and the despair of Africa. Military vehicles rumble down the roads near the fence around Melilla, and helicopters hover above, on constant patrol. And for a while the investment seemed to work.

But in the past year, large groups of sub-Saharan immigrants have been charging the rows of seven-yard-high chain-link fences here with increasing frequency, or trying to swim around them, believing with good reason that if they can just get past they will ultimately end up in Europe.  In the past few weeks, the assaults have continued on a regular basis, the men sometimes wearing homemade gloves to protect their hands. But many of the attempts fail. For most, the assaults on fences represent the final push to get to Europe after more than two years of traveling or living in the hills behind Melilla, on the outskirts of the Moroccan city of Nador, in desperate conditions.

In the latest incident more than 200 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa  brok into Melilla by scaling the border fence. The migrants, many of whom said they were from Cameroon and Guinea,  are likely to be expelled.   The reception centre is already overcrowded - built for 480, it now houses 1,300 people. 

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