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MIGRANT CRISIS

Spanish PM: Melilla migrant rush an attack on ‘territorial integrity’

The Prime Minister described a deadly migrant rush in the enclave of Melilla as "an attack on the territorial integrity" of Spain which he blamed on "mafias that traffic in human beings".

Spanish PM: Melilla migrant rush an attack on 'territorial integrity'
A member of the Moroccan security forces on the border fence separating Morocco from Spain's North African Melilla enclave. Photo: Hicham RAFIH/AFP

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on Saturday described a deadly migrant rush in the enclave of Melilla bordering Morocco as “an attack on the territorial integrity” of Spain which he blamed on “mafias that traffic in human beings”.

Dramatic scenes on Friday saw some 2,000 migrants storm border fences separating Morocco from the Spanish enclave Melilla, leading to at least 18 deaths, according to the latest Moroccan official toll.

READ ALSO: 18 migrants die in mass attempt to enter Spain’s Melilla

“If anyone is responsible for everything that happened at the border, it is the mafias that traffic in human beings,” he told a press conference.

Melilla, along with fellow Spanish enclave Ceuta, are the European Union’s only two borders with the African continent and both towns have long been magnets for migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the bloc.

Sánchez condemned what he termed “a violent and organised assault organised by mafia who traffic human beings to a town situated on Spanish soil. As a result this is an attack on our territorial integrity.”

He added that “the Moroccan gendarmerie worked in concert with (Spanish) troops and security bodies to push back this so violent assault that we witnessed.”

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MIGRATION

Nearly 1,000 migrants died trying to reach Spain in first half of 2022: NGO

At least 978 migrants died or disappeared trying to reach Spain by sea in the first six months of 2022, an average of about five per day, a migrant rights group said Wednesday.

Nearly 1,000 migrants died trying to reach Spain in first half of 2022: NGO

That is less than half of the figure of 2,087 recorded during the first six months of 2021, according to Spanish non-governmental organisation Caminando Fronteras which tracks data from boats in distress.

The group suggests fewer people are attempting to reach Spain because Morocco has stepped up its clampdown on migrant crossings since Rabat and Madrid mended diplomatic ties in March.

It also points out that 2021 was an especially deadly year for attempted migrant crossings to Spain, with more than 4,000 deaths or disappearances.

Moroccan migrants help a Sub-Saharan African man facing difficulties in the water at the border between Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Ceuta on May 19, 2021 in Fnideq. (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

More than 80 percent of the deaths or disappearances during the first six months of the year took place during attempts to reach Spain’s Canary Islands in the Atlantic.

The route to the Canaries is particularly dangerous due to strong currents, with trips in often overloaded boats without enough drinking water taking more than a week to reach the archipelago.

Many of the departures are from distant ports in Western Sahara, Mauritania or even Senegal some 1,500 kilometres (900 miles) to the south.

Spain has long been a key entry point for migrants seeking a better life in Europe.

But the number of migrants who entered Spain by sea fell by 35.7 percent in the second quarter of 2022 over the first quarter, according to an AFP tally based on interior ministry figures.

READ ALSO: What happens to undocumented migrants when they arrive in Spain?

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