Dozens of migrants breach Spain-Morocco border at Melilla

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Hundreds of migrants attempt to storm border fence into Spain's Melilla, as 'boat season' sees huge upsurge in attempted sea crossings

Dozens of migrants perch on the fence between Moroccan and Spanish territory on Tuesday morning (Twitter / @rtve)
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Thursday 12 February 2015 20:00 UTC
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At least 30 people broke through the border from Morocco into Melilla, on Tuesday as tensions in the highly-fortified Spanish enclave in North Africa continued to bubble over. 

Migrants, most of whom are travelling from countries in sub-Saharan Africa in an attempt to reach Europe, launched a wave of attempts to scale the razor-wire barrier that separates Morocco from Melilla.

At 06:00 local time (04:00 GMT) some 500 people charged the border from the Moroccan side using makeshift wooden ladders to breach the fence, the Melillan authorities said in a statement. Some 30 of them managed to get through, the statement added. 

Those who got through will be held at a temporary immigration centre in Melilla as authorities decide whether to grant them asylum or deport them to their countries of origin.

At least three people were injured during the breach attempt, and dozens more continued to perch on top of the fence for several hours as police looked on.

An hour after the first barrier surge, a further attempt was made by around 200 people who tried to scale the wall at a different location, although no one succeeded in breaking through. 

Tuesday's barrier breach is the largest attempt by migrants to gain entry onto Spanish territory in the last few months. 

In May 2014, some 400 people were able to scale the fence, after at least 1,000 migrants rushed the six-metre fence.

Spain is attempting to bolster security at Melilla and Ceuta, a second enclave bordering Morocco, but progress is slow and the desire to enter Europe high. 

The summer months are traditionally seen as 'boat season' when calmer seas allow for a safer crossing and a larger number of migrants try to make the crossing from Africa into Europe, hoping to either seek asylum or find illegal work. 

On Tuesday, Spanish authorities also picked up nearly 500 people who were attempting to cross into Spain by boat through the Strait of Gibraltar.

Since Saturday, the Spanish coastguard has apprehended nearly 900 people in the seas between Spain and Morocco, although tens of thousands if not more are believed to attempt the voyage every year.