Migrant flow to Morocco-Spain border fence 'doubles'

21st October 2014, Comments 0 comments

The flow of migrants scrambling to reach Spain's north African territory Melilla is at double the rate of last year, an official said Tuesday as he defended police after a video showed abuse by border guards.

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 has surged 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 with last year has roughly doubled," he told national radio.

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 Commissioner for Refugees voiced alarm after a video filmed by a rights group on October 15 showed Spanish Civil Guards beating a migrant and carrying him, apparently unconscious, back to the Moroccan side.

A group of four Catholic humanitarian charities on Tuesday also spoke out at what they called "the disproportional use of force in the fence at Melilla" and "expulsions of questionable legality".

"Our society cannot tolerate laws, conduct by the security forces nor immigration agreements between states that cause greater suffering and violations of people's rights," the group said in a statement.

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 on Tuesday.

"When a migrant 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 Ebola virus and then spitting to ward them off with the threat of infection.

© 2014 AFP

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