As many as 800 African migrants stormed a Spanish border outpost in North Africa, breaching a security fence and attacking guards in an attempt to gain entry to migrant shelters inside, police said Thursday.
The migrants used bolt cutters to rip open holes in the barbed-wire fences and then hurled feces and quicklime, a skin irritant, at police who were trying to beat back the onrush, Spain’s Guardia Civil said in a statement. About 600 migrants managed to break through police lines in the attack, which left 15 officers and 16 migrants injured, the Associated Press reported.
The melee occurred in the Spanish North African city of Ceuta, an exclave on the Mediterranean Sea surrounded by Morocco. Along with Melilla, a similar exclave, it is a preferred destination for sub-Saharan African migrants living in Morocco, who regularly attempt to climb the city’s 20-foot fences to petition for asylum.
Thursday’s attack at Ceuta was closely coordinated in advance, according to Spanish authorities, who described the level of violence as “unprecedented.” Many of the migrants carried shields and wore body armor while attacking border guards with improvised flamethrowers made of aerosol cans.
The assault comes as African migrants are increasingly looking to enter Europe through Spain instead of Italy and Greece, which have cracked down on illegal immigration in recent months. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that more than 27,000 migrants have arrived in Spain so far this year, mostly via the short sea route across the Strait of Gibraltar separating Morocco from the Spanish mainland. (RELATED: Obama Urges Africans To Stay Home, Stop ‘Brain Drain’)
Immigration monitors now worry that the surge of African migrants is too big for Spain’s asylum system to manage. The Spanish coast guard has rescued about 1,200 migrants since Monday alone, forcing authorities to house the new arrivals in public buildings that have been converted to migrant shelters.
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