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Migrants reach Ceuta, defy fence

December 25, 2015

A dawn rush by 300 migrants on Spain's barb-wired Africa enclave of Ceuta ended with two people drowned and 12 others badly hurt. The Red Cross said 185 individuals made it onto Spanish territory.

Spanien Enklave Ceuta Flüchtlinge
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/C. Roja

Migrants risked deep cuts and drowning on Friday to reach Ceuta, one of two Spanish enclaves on Morocco's northern coast, by scaling a nine-meter-high border fence or trying to swim around a maritime protrusion.

As Friday ended, the Spanish government issued its own tally, saying 182 migrants had managed to reach Ceuta, and 120 others were intercepted by Moroccan forces.

Spain last year fortified the fences of Ceuta and the second enclave Melilla, which lie opposite mainland Spain, across the Strait of Gibraltar.

The Spanish Red Cross said it had transferred 12 injured people to Ceuta's University Hospital. Two were recovering from near-drowning, one had an open leg fracture, and most of the rest had deep cuts requiring stitches.

Spain's government said its police officers had reanimated three people "rescued from the sea."

Morocco's state news service MAP said Moroccan authorities had recovered two bodies near the border post. Several Moroccan officers had been injured by sticks and stones.

Rubber bullets banned

Last year, 15 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean when dozens tried to enter Ceuta by swimming from a nearby beach.

Spanien Enklave Ceuta Flüchtlinge
Scaling Ceuta's fencing in February 2015Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Reduan

At the time, human rights groups and migrants said Spanish police had tried to deter them by firing rubber bullets and spraying them with tear gas.

Madrid has since said that its guards are banned from using rubber bullets to repel migrants.

Red Cross photos published Friday showed volunteers feeding migrants, many of them covered in blankets.

Those who make it are taken typically taken to detention centers and are allowed to apply for asylum.

Most often dangerous bids by migrants to reach Europe begin in Libya or Turkey.

ipj/gsw (AP, AFP)