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Ceuta border between Spain and Morocco closed amid migrant crossing

Conor Faulkner
Conor Faulkner - [email protected]
Ceuta border between Spain and Morocco closed amid migrant crossing
Members of the Spanish Guardia Civil check travelers arriving from Morocco to the border crossing in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, on May 17, 2022. Photo: FADEL SENNA/AFP

After police detected a group of around 200 migrants approaching the border fence in Ceuta, it has been closed to traffic and access between Spain and Morocco is now only permitted on foot.

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Spain's Guardia Civil and National Police have closed the border between Spain and Morocco in Ceuta, one of Spain's autonomous cities in North Africa, after a large group of migrants were detected approaching the border fence. 

READ ALSO: Why are Ceuta and Melilla Spanish?

The border, which along with Melilla, Spain's other autonomous city in Africa, is the only land border between Africa and Europe and was closed to vehicles early Friday morning after security forces spotted a group of what the Spanish press describes as "about 200 migrants of sub-Saharan origin" attempting to approach the fence. The group was then contained by the Moroccan authorities.

According to police sources, the attempted fence jump was "through the middle area" of the 8.2-kilometer-long fence that runs from the Tarajal border all the way to the waters of the Strait of Gibraltar, in Benzú, which in recent years has been an entry point for migrants and refugees trying to enter Europe.

In the first three months of 2023, 199 people entered Ceuta irregularly by land (3.9 percent less than the same period in 2022), and another 16 entered by sea (half as much as in 2022), according to figures from Spain's Interior Ministry.

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In recent years both Ceuta and Melilla have seen mass border crossings by groups of sub-saharan migrants, and the Spanish security forces have faced criticism for its approach. In June 2022, at least 23 migrants died (though some NGOs put the figure at 37) trying to get over the fence in Melilla, a tragedy Amnesty International accused both Madrid and Rabat of "contributing" to by the use of "excessive use of force."

The Red Cross's Immediate Emergency Response Team (ERIE) has been put on pre-alert in case intervention is necessary.

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