Spain to begin expelling African migrants in Spanish enclaves to Morocco |

Spain to begin expelling African migrants in Spanish enclaves to Morocco

MELILLA, Spain – Hundreds of destitute Africans rushed Morocco’s border with this Spanish enclave Wednesday, scrambling up a razor-wire fence only to be yanked back by police. The fifth assault in a week prompted Spain to announce plans to expel the illegal migrants.”In the coming hours, probably tomorrow or the next day, illegal immigrants will be returned to Morocco,” Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said after arriving in Melilla late Wednesday.Moroccan officers, often accused of turning a blind eye to the flow of desperate people into Spain, earlier in the day kept nearly all of the 500 men from reaching their dream of a foothold in this tiny European outpost.”There were Moroccan police everywhere,” said Abdurahman Seku, a 25-year-old Malian who was one of about 65 who got across. He and other new arrivals said Moroccan officers beat the climbing men with truncheons.Spain praised Morocco’s stepped-up security. Later in the day, Spanish authorities began unrolling concertina wire on the ground between the two 10-foot fences between the only European and African countries to share a land border.Crews also have been doubling the height of the inner fence, but had not reached the stretch assaulted Wednesday.Many would-be migrants journey for months and even years with hopes of getting into Melilla, which is seen as a gateway to work in Europe and an escape from Africa’s poverty.Most of those who make it onto Spanish territory can’t be sent back because their home governments won’t take them. Spanish law allows them to be held for only 40 days, and they eventually are released to fend for themselves without work permits or residency papers.Wednesday’s assault on the border fence was the fifth mass rush in a week. On Monday alone, 350 climbed the first fence with ladders made from tree branches and then ripped down sections of the second barrier, streaming into Melilla bloodied and limping.Fernandez de la Vega said that the expulsions from the enclaves will be carried out under a bilateral 1992 accord that Morocco never implemented,”The citizens of Ceuta and Melilla, and of Spain in general, must be assured that this government guarantees the security of our borders,” Fernandez de la Vega said.Under current Spanish law those caught entering Spain are allowed to remain if their country of origin has not signed an automatic repatriation agreement allowing them to be sent back immediately or if they have no passport and their nationality cannot be determined.Virtually none of the countries of origin of the people who have entered over the past two months have similar accords with Spain and refuse to take such emigrants back.MAP said 123 people from sub-Saharan Africa were caught on the Moroccan side of the border Wednesday. It said Moroccan security officers patrolling the 6-mile border had been reinforced and now totaled 1,300.At an overflowing holding facility for migrants in Melilla, the numbers of walking wounded swelled. Men in bloody clothes hobbled gingerly on feet wrapped with thick bandages, waiting in line to eat lunch or pick up plastic bags with personal hygiene items like toothbrushes.At one point they staged a frantic tug-of-war over T-shirts and other second-hand garments brought in by a relief agency. Many sat silently, some wearing bulky clothes despite a blazing sun. Others walked around asking for cigarettes or looking to borrow a cell phone to call home.Many of the Africans travel for a year or more to reach Morocco so they can try to cross into Spain and look for work. Mahamed said his trip took 2 1/2 years.On Sept. 27, two groups estimated at 500 men each tried to enter Melilla, and about 300 made it, crossing at two areas where the fence was yet to be raised.In another incident last week, five Africans died when 500 men tried to rush into Ceuta, another Spanish enclave 300 miles west of Melilla on the Moroccan coast. All five suffered gunshot wounds, and both countries are investigating.On Monday, a wave of 650 Africans tried to cross at a spot in Melilla where the inner fence had been elevated, and the government says 350 made it in. Some 135 were injured.Vail, Colorado

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