MADRID ( Associated Press) – In the first such incursion since Madrid and Rabat’s diplomatic ties were repaired last month, dozens of migrants tried to separate Morocco from the Spanish city of Melilla on Friday.
A spokesman for the government delegation in Melilla said around 400 people tried to enter the Spanish North African enclave, but many were captured on the other side of the fence by the Spanish Civil Guard and Moroccan forces.
Those who managed to cross went to a migrant centre, where officials were evaluating their cases.
The spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity in compliance with government regulations, said several hundred people were still waiting on the Moroccan side.
People fleeing poverty and violence sometimes engage in collective efforts to enter Ceuta, Melilla and other Spanish enclaves in the north of the continent, as a springboard for continental Europe.
Spain often relies on Moroccan authorities to keep migrants away from the border.
According to Spanish officials, in early March, more than 3,500 people tried to scale the 6-metre (20-foot) high double perimeter fence, and about 1,000 people managed to jump it.
Friday’s crossing was the first since relations between the two countries improved in March after a year of tensions centered on Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony that Morocco annexed in 1976.
Morocco eased its controls around Ceuta last year, allowing thousands of migrants to enter Spanish territory. The move was seen as retaliation for Madrid’s decision to allow Polisario Front, leader of the Western Saharan independence movement, to be treated for COVID-19 in a Spanish hospital.
Tensions between the two countries began to ease earlier this year, when Spain backed Morocco’s plan to give more autonomy to the region, where activists are demanding full independence.