Hundreds of African migrants have stormed the Spanish-Moroccan border, injuring guards and pouring into the streets of Melilla.
The city, which has belonged to Spain since 1497, is one of two centuries-old settlements on the North African coast which belong to the European country. Their frontiers with Morocco represent the European Union’s only land borders with an African nation.
In the early hours of 9 May an estimated 300 illegal migrants, who travelled to Morocco with Europe as their ultimate objective, launched a sustained assault on Melilla’s boundary fences. The Spanish interior ministry reports that three guards were hospitalised after the intruders bombarded them with missiles.
Around a hundred migrants broke through the city’s defences successfully, rampaging through the streets and turning cartwheels in celebration. They could not be immediately ejected due to EU rules which require the authorities to let them lodge asylum applications on reaching Spanish soil.
Melilla’s sister city, Ceuta, has also suffered from large-scale assaults in recent months. Five hundred migrants broke through its fences on 18 February, followed swiftly by another 300 on the 20th.
These incidents were preceded by an even larger incursion in January which saw over a thousand migrants launch an “extremely violent and organised” attack which injured 55 border guards. One is reported to have lost an eye.
Border violations at the two exclaves had already tripled on…