More than 200 hundred sub-Saharan migrants managed to climb over a triple-layer border fence into Spain’s North African enclave of Melilla — a tiny corner of Europe on the Moroccan coast.
The young men, at least some of whom claimed to be from Cameroon and Mali, reportedly crossed into Europe at Ben Enzar, a Moroccan-Spanish border point, early on Friday.
The video below shows a crowd of migrants jubilantly celebrating their successful climb over to the Spanish side, screaming “thank you,” “God is great,” and “España.”
“I’m done, I’m done with Africa, “ one of them says to the camera.
“Mom, I’m here; dad, I’m here,” another one says.
“Mom, I love you,” yet another says later.
African migrants triumphantly celebrate after climbing a fence and crossing into Europe.
“They were overwhelmed with joy, a logical emotion after long months of hardship,” members of EQUO, the Spanish social justice group that filmed the migrant’s arrival in Melilla, wrote on their Facebook page. “We think that the situation on Europe’s southern border can be categorized as a humanitarian emergency, and it is on this view that we must act.”
The EQUO member holding the camera also interviews some of the migrants.
“Where was the police, where was the civil guard?” he asks.
“They were there,” one of the migrants responds. “We passed anyway.”
Spain spent some 30 million euros building up the barriers around Melilla and Ceuta, its two enclaves surrounded by Morocco, and the only two land borders between Europe and Africa. But over the last year, groups of migrants have increasingly taken to charging the rows of seven-yard-high chain-link fences, the New York Times recently reported.
Migrants climbing the fences often end up with injuries — if not from falls or wires, then directly at the hands of Spanish and Moroccan border authorities.
Abbdol Cisse, a 19-year-old migrant, told the Times that Moroccan police threw stones at them.
“They had metal bars, and they hit our legs while we were climbing,” he said.
Earlier this month, Spanish military police in Ceuta fired rubber bullets at migrants swimming near the enclave’s shore — another way into European territory.
At least 14 migrants drowned in Moroccan waters on that occasion. The incident sparked fierce condemnation by human rights groups and European Union officials, and earlier this week Spain's interior ministry said it had banned border guards from resorting to rubber bullets.
But climbing over the fences doesn’t always work out. On Monday, Moroccan authorities arrested 96 migrants who attempted to storm the fence with sticks and stones. Fourteen ended up in the hospital, according to the Times. On Friday, 300 people attempted the crossing, and 214 made it through. Several migrants suffered cuts while jumping the fence, and two Spanish officers suffered minor injuries, local authorities said.
Those who make it through are faced with a severely overcrowded reception center. The facility, which has a capacity of 480 people, was recently packed with more than 1,000.
But that’s hardly the greatest challenge for those who have embarked on long and difficult journeys to get closer to “fortress Europe.”
One of the men in the video says he waited in Morocco for two years for this chance.
“That’s too much,” he said.
The video below, filmed by a Melilla resident from his window, shows excited migrants running through the streets of the Spanish town.
“One of them ran with his arms raised, screaming ‘I love you, Spain’,” the resident tweeted.