African migrants storm border of Spanish city

/ Source: The Associated Press

African migrants armed with sticks and rocks stormed the border of a Spanish enclave in North Africa on Monday but police using tear gas repelled them, the Spanish Interior Ministry said.

Border guards repelled two waves totaling about 200 Africans in the fifth and largest such attempt to reach the Spanish city of Melilla from Morocco in less than a month, said Gregorio Escobar, the ministry's top representative in Melilla.

No migrant managed to cross into the Mediterranean city of some 70,000 people.

Moroccan authorities detained most of the 150 Africans who tried to rush a border crossing in a first attempt. Less than an hour later, a group of about 60 turned violent as they tried to force their way across and Spanish authorities used riot gear and tear gas to keep them out, Escobar said.

Police officers suffer minor injuries
Two Spanish police were slightly injured and six other officers were treated after inhaling tear gas, he said.

Thousands of African migrants seeking a better life in Europe try to enter Spain each year. Most try to reach the Canary Islands by boat and others try enter Melilla or Ceuta, another Spanish enclave on Morocco's coast.

Police have prevented migrants from crossing into Melilla on all the previous attempts over the past weeks except on one occasion when 37 migrants got through. They were later detained on Spanish soil.

Each time, migrants tried to get through a section of border fence damaged in torrential rains in late October. On Monday, however, they targeted a regular border crossing used daily by thousands of people.

Migrants wait on Moroccan side
The migrants often spend weeks or months living in a forest on the Moroccan side of the frontier as they await a chance to cross into Melilla.

The rains in October washed away most of their belongings and made living conditions even worse, said Khalil Jemmah, the head of Morocco's Association of Victims of Illegalized Migration.

"They're desperately trying to cross because they've got nothing left to lose," Jemmah told the Associated Press late Saturday after a group of 50 sub-Saharan migrants fought with Moroccan police protecting the breached fence.