Friday, December 26, 2014

The tragedy at Ceuta and Melilla

Every week, hundreds of Africans try to scramble over the high fences that encircle Ceuta and Melilla, two Spanish-ruled enclaves on the northern tip of Morocco. Countless migrants are injured as the Moroccan military, on one side, and a few hundred Spanish police on the other, block Africans seeking to cross into the two tiny territories -- barely 12 square miles (30 square kilometres) of land between them. Nearly 4,700 undocumented migrants have infiltrated Melilla thus far this year, the interior ministry said -- up from 3,000 in 2013. The Spanish government says nearly 20,000 migrants have tried to storm the six-metre (23-foot), triple layer fence at Melilla this year alone.

Ceuta sits in a strategic spot 15 miles from Gibraltar across the mouth of the Mediterranean, with Melilla 140 miles to the east. To guard their fences, 600 Civil Guards are stationed in each of the territories. "You have to be strong and very fit. You have to be a lion!" said AbouDiarrisso, a lean 22-year-old from Ivory Coast who clambered over into Melilla. "There were 200 of us to start with. I was the only one to get over the fences." Some migrants sit atop the fence for hours before falling off exhausted, getting dragged down by Spanish guards or knocked off by blows from their batons. A video filmed by rights group Prodein in October showed Spanish guards beating a migrant on the fence and carrying him apparently unconscious back to the Moroccan side. The Spanish government has since announced a reform that would formally authorise border guards to drive migrants off who try to climb the fence. Commissioner Nils Muiznieks of the Council of Europe, the continent's top human rights authority, branded that plan "unjust and illegal under international law".

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