Migrants Again Rush Spanish Enclave Fence

By Daniel Woolls
Associated Press
Tuesday, October 4, 2005

MELILLA, Spain, Oct. 3 -- More than 300 Africans breached a razor-wire fence separating Morocco from the Spanish enclave of Melilla on Monday, clashing with police as the latest wave of undocumented immigrants sought a foothold in Europe.

Officials said about 650 people tried to cross, and about 350 succeeded, in the pre-dawn surge into Melilla, a small, crowded enclave on Morocco's northern coast. Police were overwhelmed.

"There were just too many of us," said Fofama Issa, a 28-year-old man from Mali, sitting barefoot in an overflowing holding facility after the melee.

About 135 immigrants were injured, as were seven police officers. Some of the Africans threw rocks at police, Spain's Interior Ministry office in Melilla said.

The surge surprised a Spanish security contingent boosted by army troops after similar rushes last week here and at another Spanish enclave, Ceuta, where five Africans died.

In Monday's incident, immigrants used makeshift ladders to scale a 10-foot fence topped with razor wire, then clambered up a newly elevated second fence twice as high, ripping through the mesh of the barrier. The weight of the people brought down at least two 60-foot-long strips of the fence, leaving gaping holes.

Hours later, shoes, gloves, shirts and other pieces of clothing dangled from the barrier. The ladders, made from branches, were stacked on the Moroccan side of the border. Soldiers later burned them.

Blood stained a road along the fence and the roadway's guardrail.

At the holding center, already housing more than 1,000 people, the first of the new arrivals showed up in filthy, torn and bloodstained clothes. Many people were bandaged or limping in cheap plastic sandals.

Many of the Africans arriving in Melilla had been moving for more than two years, working their way north from some of the continent's poorest countries. They then spent months in the bush in Morocco while waiting to cross into Spain.

"We were just tired of living in the forest," said Sega Sow, a 19-year-old from Guinea-Bissau, wearing a sports jersey and pants stained with blood. He had thick bandages on both arms and his forehead. "There was nothing to eat, there was nothing to drink."

Melilla Mayor Juan Jose Imbroda called for better cooperation with Morocco in stemming the flow of immigrants. "The solution has to come from the other side of the border," he told Cadena Ser radio. "I don't know if the Moroccan forces are deployed somewhere else or they let down their guard."


© 2005 The Washington Post Company