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IMMIGRATION

Migrants storm Morocco-Spain border fence, seven police injured

Over 100 African migrants forced their way into the Spanish territory of Ceuta on Wednesday after storming a barbed-wire border fence with Morocco and attacking police with caustic quicklime, a local official said.

Migrants storm Morocco-Spain border fence, seven police injured
A man reacts after forcing his way into the Spanish territory of Ceuta. Photo: AFP

In the second assault on the Spanish border in a month, seven police officers were lightly injured when migrants threw quicklime and battery acid as they tried to scale the fence, a spokesman for the Spanish government's representative in Ceuta told AFP, adding that some 115 migrants managed to enter the tiny territory.   

An undetermined number of migrants were also injured in the assault on the border. 

Images published by local newspaper El Faro de Ceuta showed bare-chested African migrants celebrating their arrival in Ceuta, many with bloody cuts to their hands.


Photo: AFP


Photo: AFP

Some waved Spanish or European Union flags as they made their way to a temporary migrant accommodation centre.   

“All my support to those security forces who are facing the migratory challenge in an exemplary way, especially the agents who were injured today,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez tweeted.

Every year sub-Saharan African migrants living illegally in Morocco try to enter Europe either by climbing over their border fences or swimming along their coastlines.

Spanish territories Ceuta and Melilla have the European Union's only land borders with Africa, drawing migrants trying to reach the bloc.   

The assault on the border comes as Ceuta was marking Islam's Eid al-Adha religious feast. Over 600 African migrants got past the double border fence on July 26th, in the biggest run on the border since February 2017.

Fifteen police officers were injured in the violence, some sustaining burns to their face and arms. 

Some 3,100 migrants have entered Ceuta and Melilla by land since the start of the year, according to the International Organization for Migration.   

Over 25,000 others have arrived in Spain by sea, making it the main entry point for migrants arriving in Europe, after Italy and Greece.

POLITICS

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area

European countries agreed on Thursday to push towards a long-stalled reform of the bloc's migration system, urging tighter control of external borders and better burden-sharing when it comes to asylum-seekers.

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area
European interior ministers met in the northern French city of tourcoing, where president Emmanuel Macron gave a speech. Photo: Yoat Valat/AFP

The EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, speaking after a meeting of European interior ministers, said she welcomed what she saw as new momentum on the issue.

In a reflection of the deep-rooted divisions on the issue, France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin – whose country holds the rotating EU presidency – said the process would be “gradual”, and welcomed what he said was unanimous backing.

EU countries backed a proposal from French President Emmanuel Macron to create a council guiding policy in the Schengen area, the passport-free zone used by most EU countries and some affiliated nations such as Switzerland and Norway.

Schengen council

Speaking before the meeting, Macron said the “Schengen Council” would evaluate how the area was working but would also take joint decisions and facilitate coordination in times of crisis.

“This council can become the face of a strong, protective Europe that is comfortable with controlling its borders and therefore its destiny,” he said.

The first meeting is scheduled to take place on March 3rd in Brussels.

A statement released after the meeting said: “On this occasion, they will establish a set of indicators allowing for real time evaluation of the situation at our borders, and, with an aim to be able to respond to any difficulty, will continue their discussions on implementing new tools for solidarity at the external borders.”

Step by step

The statement also confirmed EU countries agreed to take a step-by-step approach on plans for reforming the EU’s asylum rules.

“The ministers also discussed the issues of asylum and immigration,” it read.

“They expressed their support for the phased approach, step by step, put forward by the French Presidency to make headway on these complex negotiations.

“On this basis, the Council will work over the coming weeks to define a first step of the reform of the European immigration and asylum system, which will fully respect the balance between the requirements of responsibility and solidarity.”

A planned overhaul of EU migration policy has so far foundered on the refusal of countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia to accept a sharing out of asylum-seekers across the bloc.

That forces countries on the EU’s outer southern rim – Italy, Greece, Malta and Spain – to take responsibility for handling irregular migrants, many of whom are intent on making their way to Europe’s wealthier northern nations.

France is pushing for member states to commit to reinforcing the EU’s external borders by recording the details of every foreign arrival and improving vetting procedures.

It also wants recalcitrant EU countries to financially help out the ones on the frontline of migration flows if they do not take in asylum-seekers themselves.

Johansson was critical of the fact that, last year, “45,000 irregular arrivals” were not entered into the common Eurodac database containing the fingerprints of migrants and asylum-seekers.

Earlier, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser suggested her country, France and others could form a “coalition of the willing” to take in asylum-seekers even if no bloc-wide agreement was struck to share them across member states.

She noted that Macron spoke of a dozen countries in that grouping, but added that was probably “very optimistic”.

Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, hailed what he said was “a less negative atmosphere” in Thursday’s meeting compared to previous talks.

But he cautioned that “we cannot let a few countries do their EU duty… while others look away”.

France is now working on reconciling positions with the aim of presenting propositions at a March 3rd meeting on European affairs.

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