Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 7 December 2019

Van carrying more than 50 migrants smashes through Spanish border barrier

Migrants have flocked to Spain's territorial enclaves in Morocco as a possible route to reach Europe

A crane removes the van at the Tarajal border crossing in Ceuta on Monday. EPA
A crane removes the van at the Tarajal border crossing in Ceuta on Monday. EPA

A speeding van carrying 52 migrants smashed through a border barrier between Morocco and Spain's North African enclave of Ceuta on Monday, local officials said.

The white van raced towards the border at full speed and smashed into a border gate, a spokesman for the Spanish police in Ceuta told AFP.

A spokesman for the Interior Ministry´s office in Ceuta said the vehicle broke through a metal gate on the Spanish side of the border around 3am local time.

Video on Twitter showed the vehicle badly dented after the crash.

The official said the 52 migrants were all from sub-Saharan countries: 34 men, 16 women and two children.

Four were treated in a Ceuta hospital for minor injuries suffered in the crash.

Police detained the driver of the van which had French licence plates.

Footage shot by the local Faro de Ceuta television showed police escorting the migrants to a Red Cross post where they received medical aid. The front of the van was badly dented, the images showed.

A migrant scales a fence into Cueta. AFP
A migrant scales a fence into Cueta. AFP

Spain's two North African enclaves, Ceuta and Melilla, have the European Union's only land borders with Africa. They have long been magnets for African migrants, who attempt to reach the Spanish territories by climbing over their border fences or swim along their coastlines.

Often, migrants try to scale the 6-metre-high wire fences that separate Ceuta from Morocco.

Officials identified the driver as Moroccan citizen, who was detained.

It was not first time that vehicles carrying migrants have crashed through the border but the spokesman said Monday’s incident involved the biggest number so far.

The migrants will be accommodated in a temporary holding centre while their expected asylum petitions are studied.

Once in Ceuta, the migrants normally apply for asylum or wait for an opportunity to travel to mainland Spain.

Since the start of the year, 5,216 migrants have entered these two cities by land, 12 per cent less than in 2018, according to the latest Moroccan Interior Ministry figures. Of that number, 1,163 arrived in Ceuta.

Once on Spanish territory, they are usually taken to a migrant reception centre where they can ask for asylum.

A total of 27,584 migrants have arrived in Spain either by land or sea so far this year. The figure represents a 51 per cent drop over the number of entries in 2018 when Spain, for the first time, surpassed Italy to become to main entry point for migrants arriving in Europe. Greece is the main entry point this year.

Updated: November 18, 2019 09:11 PM

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