An unprecedented group of 700 migrants attempted to cross the fence into the Spanish enclave of Melilla at night, but were repulsed by Moroccan border troops, a Spanish official said Friday.
“There were about 700 people trying to reach the border fence,” a spokesman for the Spanish government delegation in Melilla told AFP.
None of the group, all of whom came from sub-Saharan Africa, were able to make the crossing thanks to coordination between the Spanish and Moroccan security forces, the spokesman said.
Although hundreds of people had tried to cross the fence before, “we’ve never seen anything like 700,” he said, describing their attempts to reach the fence as “very well coordinated.”
“It was very well organized. They were trying to reach different points of the border fence at the same time, to split up the security forces that were trying to stop them,” he said, describing the approach as “relatively new”.
“There are those who lead, there are those who split off and there are those who act as scouts, in other words everything is perfectly coordinated and planned.”
Spain’s two small enclaves, Ceuta and Melilla, have Europe’s only land border with Africa, making them a magnet for migrants desperate to escape abject poverty and hunger.
Several groups of hundreds of migrants attempted to climb over the Melilla fence in August, though most were turned away. At the end of July, more than 230 people crossed the road in one of the largest successful influxes in recent years.
Medio may, Spain was overwhelmed as more than 10,000 people swam or used small inflatable boats to enter Ceuta as Moroccan border troops looked the other way.
The influx came amid a diplomatic crisis between Spain and Morocco, with Madrid infuriating Rabat by allowing the Western Sahara separatist leader to be treated in a Spanish hospital.
The border crossing was generally seen as a punitive measure by Morocco.