Migrant flow to Morocco-Spain border fence 'doubles'
Migrants are scrambling to reach Spain's north African territory Melilla at double the rate of last year, an official said Tuesday, speaking days after evidence of abuse by border guards sparked outrage.
The head of the Spanish government delegation in the territory Abdelmalik El Barkani said the number of attempts by desperate migrants to scale the seven-metre (23-foot), triple layer fence separating Melilla from Morocco had surged so far in 2014.
"Last year there were 38 attempts overall. So far this year there have been 58, so we can say that at this rate the pressure on the border fence compared to last year has roughly doubled."
Spain has demanded more help from the European Union to deal with the flow of migrants who head to Melilla and Ceuta, another Spanish territory bordering Morocco. The two territories have Europe's only land borders with Africa.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees voiced alarm after a video filmed by a rights group on October 15 showed Spanish Civil Guards beating an immigrant and carrying him back to the Moroccan side.
Spanish officials have defended the police, with Barkani's office insisting they had acted legally. The government has described some of the attempts on the fence as "violent".
"The Civil Guard is working in a difficult situation," Barkani said in comments broadcast on national radio on Tuesday.
"When an immigrant acts aggressively, the guards obviously have to use proportional force, as the law allows."
Barkani said some migrants tried to intimidate officers by saying they had the deadly disease Ebola and then spitting to ward them off with the threat of infection.
© 2014 AFP