Spain’s socialist prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has blamed organized crime gangs for the latest 2,000-strong storming of Melilla, the Spanish enclave situated on the land border with Morocco, which resulted in the deaths of 23 sub-Saharan migrants on Friday.
Disturbing footage circulated on the internet showing jubilant migrants cheering after they reached the Spanish border town, but according to Spanish media reports, 140 Moroccan officials and border guards were injured in the migrants’ attempt to reach EU territory, including five seriously; one police officer had to be treated in the intensive care unit of a hospital.
Spain’s conservative Vox party outlined how the policies of the left-wing Spanish government led to the situation.
“New massive jump in illegals at the Melilla border. The government should demand at the NATO summit the protection of the Southern Border as requested by Vox,” the Vox party wrote on Twitter. “It is curious that the mafias have respected the electoral period so scrupulously, when there have been almost no arrivals,” it added.
The scenes of chaos underline the difficult security situation in Europe, with migrant men scaling fences and entering Spain despite volleys of tear gas.
Sanchez pointed to “mafia” and human trafficking as the root cause of the problem.
“If anyone is responsible for everything that happened at the border, it is the mafia who traffic in human beings. Therefore, this is an attack on the territorial integrity of our country,” the prime minister said during a press conference.
Moroccan authorities are now reporting that 23 illegal immigrants died since Friday while trying to enter the Spanish enclave bordering Morocco. According to a government source in the province of Nador, the men died after “jostling and falling from the iron fence” separating Spanish and Moroccan territory during “an assault marked by the use of very violent methods on the part of the migrants.”
Given the huge number of immigrants who died trying to cross into Spain, it would mark the deadliest day ever for migrants trying to cross into Melilla.
Already at the beginning of March, thousands of Africans had scaled the high border fence and violently overwhelmed the security forces. At the time, the Spanish authorities spoke of the “most massive attempt at a breakthrough ever.”
Now, this incident is being labeled the biggest breakthrough attempt ever.
The two Spanish enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta are the only areas of the EU that are on the African continent. Migrants continue to attempt to climb over the fortifications in these places, which are protected by cameras and border guards.