Two drown as hundreds swim to Spanish enclave

At least 200 people had set out for Ceuta from Morocco in desperate attempt to reach European shores.

    A mass attempt to scale the border fence on the Spanish island of Ceuta and reach European shores has left at least two people dead and 12 others injured, reports say.

    News agencies, quoting the Red Cross, said 185 African migrants and refugees swam all the way from Morocco and made it across the border fence on Friday, and were being treated for injuries.

    The incident occurred around 4am local time near Benzu, in the north of Ceuta.

    Twelve others were taken hospital with cuts, fractured bones, hypothermia or symptoms of drowning, the Red Cross said.

    Morocco becomes transit point for refugees

    Along with Melilla to the east, Ceuta is one of two Spanish territories on the northern coast of Morocco that form the European Union's only land borders with Africa.

    Spain fortified fences in the two territories last year in response to an increase in the number of people trying to jump over the barriers from Morocco.

    The International Organization of Migration (IOM) said on Tuesday that more than a million "irregular migrants" and refugees arrived in Europe this year.

    The people fleeing persecution, conflict and poverty are mainly from Syria, the Africa continent and south Asia.

    "With arrivals of 4,141 migrants or refugees landing in Greece on Monday, IOM reports total arrivals to Europe at roughly 1,005,504, with just three percent coming by land. The total is the highest migration flow since World War II," the IOM said.

    Fifteen people drowned in the Mediterranean last year after dozens tried to enter Ceuta by swimming from a nearby beach.

    Spanish police tried to keep them from crossing into Spanish territory by firing rubber bullets and spraying them with tear gas, according to the migrants as well as human rights groups.

    The Spanish government has since banned its guards from using bullets to turn away migrants and refugees.

     

    SOURCE: Agencies


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