Would-be migrant dies scaling Melilla border fence

5th November 2013, Comments 0 comments

A would-be migrant died Tuesday when he fell while trying with 150 others to scale the border fence separating Morocco from Spain's north African territory of Melilla, Moroccan officials said.

The incident, in which another four people were injured, comes a day after 80-100 migrants succeeded in getting across by charging the seven-metre (23-foot) high fence at a point where it had not yet been reinforced.

Tuesday's group "tried to break through by scaling the wire mesh fence at the point known as Rostro Gordo," said an official in Nador, on the Moroccan side of the border with Melilla.

During the incident, 40 people were arrested.

Melilla, which has 80,000 inhabitants, is a key crossroads for migrants who try to slip through to Europe from neighbouring Morocco.

In a bid to ward off regular charges by hundreds of migrants, Spain announced Monday it had begun installing barbed wire and "anti-climbing" mesh at points along the 11-kilometre (seven-mile) border.

Barbed wire had been used before in Melilla but was removed from the top of the border fence in 2006 after causing injuries to migrants as they tried to enter the territory illegally.

The Spanish branch of Amnesty International said it was "deeply worried" over the installation of barbed wire on the border fence.

"The response of the Spanish government to the migratory pressure is moving away from the respect of the rights of people who try to enter our country and is a serious step backwards," a statement said.

About 3,000 migrants tried to scale the border fence between January 1 and September 17, compared to 1,610 during the same period last year, according to Spanish interior ministry figures.

Melilla and Ceuta, another Spanish territory on the north African coast, have the European Union's only land borders with Africa.

Chakib al-Khayari, a senior official with a Moroccan NGO, the Rif Association of Human Rights, said some 40 would-be migrants have been killed over the past two years as they tried to get across.

Many others seek to enter Spain by sea, crossing the narrow Strait of Gibraltar that separates the two countries.

© 2013 AFP

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