Dec 9, 10:50 AM EST

Spain: 400 migrants storm North African border fence


AP Photo
AP Photo/Jose Antonio Sempere

MADRID (AP) -- More than 400 migrants from Africa stormed across a border fence to enter Spain's North African enclave of Ceuta from Morocco on Friday in one of the biggest crossing attempts of recent years.

The Spanish Interior Ministry's state secretary for security, Jose Antonio Nieto, told reporters some 800 migrants had tried to get over the fence in the early morning crossing, and 438 succeeded.

He said 49 were treated in a Ceuta hospital for injuries. Two police officers were also slightly injured. Nieto said some migrants used sticks and stones against the officers.

It was one of the biggest charges in recent years on Ceuta's border barrier, known as the "killer fence" because of the barbed and bladed wire that caps it.

"Fortunately, we did not have to regret any deaths or too many injuries this time," Helena Maleno Garzon, a member of the Caminando Fronteras (Walking Borders) group that works with migrants in Morocco, told The Associated Press by telephone from Tangiers city.

She said the migrants included teenagers and minors fleeing conflict in Mali or who had lost family through the Ebola disease in Guinea.

Television video images showed many migrants celebrating and giving victory signs on having made it across.

Hundreds of sub-Saharan African migrants living illegally in Morocco try to enter Ceuta and Melilla, Spain's other North African enclave each year, hoping to get to Europe. Both cities have six-meter (20-foot) -high border fences separating them from Morocco.

Most migrants who try to cross are intercepted on the spot and returned to Morocco. Those that make it over the fences are eventually repatriated or let go.

Ceuta's accommodation center how has 1,178 migrants, more than twice its capacity.

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Associated Press writer Aritz Parra in Madrid contributed to this report.

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