Five Spanish policemen and 50 members of the Moroccan forces were injured, including one who lost an eye.
Migrants argue with a Spanish Guardia Civil officer in this 2014 file photo [Fernando Garcia/AP]
More than 1,000 migrants tried to jump a high double fence between Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Ceuta on Sunday in a violent assault that saw one officer lose an eye.
A group of 1,100 people from sub-Saharan Africa trying to reach Europe stormed the border fence just after 4am (03:00 GMT) on New Year's Day in an "extremely violent and organised" way, said the central government's representative office in Ceuta.
None, however, managed to get through, but two who were badly injured and taken to hospital in Ceuta, the office said in a statement. A similar assault on December 9 saw more than 400 migrants enter the tiny enclave.
They tried "to force open some of the doors in the external fence, using iron bars, wire cutters and large stones, with which they assaulted Moroccan forces and [Spanish] Guardia Civil [police] agents," it added.
Five Spanish policemen and 50 members of the Moroccan forces were injured, including one who lost an eye, it said.
"From now on, those making such attempts will be presented before the competent judicial authorities, who will decree their expulsion from the kingdom [of Morocco] or heavier penalties, according the gravity of the act," Morocco's interior ministry said in a statement.
Ceuta and Melilla, another Spanish territory in North Africa, have the European Union's only land borders with Africa. They are one of the entry points for African migrants seeking a better life in Europe, who get there by either climbing over the border fence, swimming along the coast, or hiding in vehicles.
On Monday, a French national was arrested for trying to board a ferry out of Ceuta with a camper van in which 12 Algerians were found hiding, "car sick and sweating", police said.
Separately, on Sunday, Spanish police said a Moroccan woman was arrested in Ceuta last week for trying to smuggle a 19-year-old migrant from Gabon across the border with Spain curled up inside a suitcase.
According to local authorities, of the 1,100 migrants who stormed the border Sunday, about 100 managed to climb up the external fence and stayed on top for hours.
Footage shot by the local Faro TV shows one man perched at the top of the six-metre high fence, sitting uncomfortably near rolls of barbed wire, his head hanging down onto his chest.
Eventually, as darkness turns to light, he slowly climbs down to a space between both fences and lies down as a Spanish policeman fetches him a bottle of water before taking him to an entry back into Morocco.
Separately, coastguards said they had rescued 52 people who were packed onto a small boat at sea south of Malaga, on Spain's southern coast.
2016 was the deadliest year ever for migrants in the Mediterranean, with almost 5,000 deaths, according to the International Organization for Migration.
OP: The following article is from Dec. 23rd 2016.
Migrant death toll passes 5,000 after two boats capsize off Italy
At least 100 people missing, feared dead, as UN refugee agency says number of deaths in 2016 has passed 5,000
A woman and her daughter after being rescued from a wooden vessel off Italy last month. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
About 100 people are missing and feared dead after two boats capsized off Italy, increasing the estimated death toll among migrants in the Mediterranean this year to at least 5,000, a record, UN agencies have said.
Deaths linked to Mediterranean crossings by migrants trying to reach Europe have spiked in 2016. Last year, 3,771 deaths were recorded as more than a million people made the journey, mostly from Turkey to Greece. This year, about 360,000 people have crossed, most between Libya and Italy, with far more deadly results.
“The latest information we have is that yesterday [Thursday], in two incidents, as many as 100 people lost their lives,” said William Spindler, a spokesman for the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.
“The number of people who have lost their lives on the Mediterranean this year has now passed 5,000,” he said. “That means that on average, 14 people have died every single day this year in the Mediterranean trying to find safety or a better life in Europe.”
Citing survivors’ accounts, Joel Millman, a spokesman for the International Organisation for Migration, said that at least 57 people were feared dead after a rubber dinghy carrying between 120 and 140 people capsized on Thursday. A number of women and children were believed to have been among those on board.
He said eight bodies had been recovered. A further 40 people were feared dead from another dinghy also carrying about 120 people. Millman said he did not immediately have more details.
UNHCR said the Italian coastguard had carried out four rescue operations in the central Mediterranean on Thursday, including the rescue of about 175 people from another dinghy and a wooden boat. The rescued survivors were taken to the western Sicilian town of Trapani, from where they are expected to be transported to reception centres.
A further 417 people who have been rescued in other operations since Thursday were expected to be landed at the port of Augusta in eastern Sicily, according to a UNHCR spokesperson, who said emergency activities at sea were “non-stop”.
Among possible causes for the increase in deaths in the Mediterranean this year, the agency cited a worsening quality of vessels and smugglers’ tactics to avoid detection by authorities, such as sending many boats out at the same time, which makes the work of rescuers harder.
More asylum seekers have reached Italy by boat in 2016 than in any previous year on record. Statistics compiled by UNHCR and the Italian government and released last month revealed that the total had surpassed the previous record of 170,000 set in 2014.
The spike comes after migration flows in the eastern Mediterranean between Turkey and Greece were drastically reduced following actions by both states, and the closure of a humanitarian corridor between Greece and Germany.
Médecins Sans Frontières broadcast footage of rescue operations in the Mediterranean on Thursday night on Twitter. It said more than 112 men, women and children had been taken on board the Aquarius, a search-and-rescue ship the charity runs in partnership with SOS Méditerranée.
Images showed dozens of people being taken on board in heavy rain and later being provided with food and assistance. Spanish naval vessels were reported to have been involved in rescuing people from at least two other boats.
UNHCR said the latest incidents highlighted what it described as an urgent need for states to increase pathways for the admission of refugees, such as resettlement and family reunification programmes, so they did not have to resort to dangerous journeys and the use of smugglers.
“The causes for the alarming increase in deaths this year are multiple but appear to be related to the declining quality of the vessels used by people-smugglers, the vagaries of the weather and the tactics used by smugglers to avoid detection by the authorities. These include sending large numbers of embarkations simultaneously, which makes the work of rescuers more difficult,” the agency said in a statement.
The IOM said it believed many more deaths at sea may have gone unreported this year, particularly on journeys from North Africa to Spain, where data collection had been sporadic. Many smaller vessels were believed to have been lost without detection.
A spokesperson for the organization in Rome, Flavio Di Giacomo, said the number of shipwrecks reflected the poor state of the boats used by the refugees and the current harsh weather conditions at sea. “We are seeing more migrants crossing this winter. This trend confirms the fact that conditions in Libya are becoming increasingly dangerous for migrants, who are often trying to flee the country in order to save their lives,” he said.
“Many people have told us that they didn’t want to come to Europe when they left their country of origin. For many of them the destination country was Libya. But what they found there was abuse and violence. As a consequence, they decided to try the sea crossing, putting their lives in the hands of unscrupulous smugglers, who forced them to embark on vessels unfit to sail. These shipwrecks cannot be therefore considered mere ‘incidents’. They are the consequence of criminal behaviour by smugglers.”
OP: I thought it would be interesting to detail some other aspects and facts here.
(1) Different parts of Europe seem to be dealing with differing migrant populations. As of November 2016, in Greece, 47% of the migrants and refugees have come from war-torn Syria while for Italy, the nationalities involved are almost all African (i.e. Italy's interior ministry said 36,000 came from Nigeria, 20,000 from Eritrea and 12,000 from Guinea). (Source)
(2) Human Rights Watch has criticized the EU's deal with Turkey (i.e. deal on migration and refugees) (see also here). They state that, "The humanitarian argument of saving lives at sea has often served as a fig leaf for self-interested, coercive border enforcement measures. The facts of migration and refugee flows demonstrate that as old routes close down, new routes emerge to respond to people’s needs and determination. Stopping the boats will not stop people trying to reach safety in Europe, but it may well prompt human smugglers to use alternative, and more dangerous, routes to ferry desperate people across the sea and land borders".
I would personally add that another example of the effects of such coercive measures can be found in measures taken by the US with regards to migration from Mexico: a report by the ACLU and Mexico's National Commission for Human Rights from 2009 stated that: "the deaths of unauthorized migrants [along the US-Mexico border] have been a predictable and inhumane outcome of border security policies on the U.S.-Mexico border over the last fifteen years". From the report: "Beginning in 1994, the U.S. government implemented a border enforcement policy known as “Operation Gatekeeper” that used a “prevention and deterrence” strategy. The strategy concentrated border agents and resources along populated areas, intentionally forcing undocumented immigrants to extreme environments and natural barriers that the government anticipated would increase the likelihood of injury and death".
IMO, such coercive measures include preventing migrants from entering Europe through its land border with Africa (i.e. the Spanish enclaves mentioned above) as well as the increased difficulty with regards to moving beyond Greece (and possibly with reaching Greece, since it has been reported that "arrivals from Turkey to Greece across the Aegean are down", possibly as a result of measures associated with the EU-Turkey deal). The difficulty of moving on inside Europe from Greece has also increased since several Balkan countries (e.g. Hungary) have taken steps to block migrants passing through their countries, although this has not stopped the flow (see this reference).
(3) With regards to the treatment of migrants in Morocco: the treatment of migrants in Morocco is shameful.
-'Living in Fear at the Morocco - Spain border'.
-Morocco/Western Sahara 2015/2016.
-Morocco sets unlikely precedent in hosting sub-Saharan migrants.
-At Europe’s Door: Black African Migrants Trapped In Hellish Limbo in Morocco. I think the following quote from this reference points to the shameful way in which Europe has dealt with African migrants: "Located only about 15 kilometers (9 miles) from Spain at its closest point, Morocco is a key hub for the smuggling of illegal immigrants from Africa into Europe. Every year, thousands of people try to reach Spain on makeshift boats, somewhat similar to the scenario in the Caribbean where Cubans and Haitians have made desperate sea voyages to reach the United States over the years.
But Morocco, which receives millions of euros annually from the European Union to clamp down on illegal immigrants seeking to enter Europe, has come under criticism for its often brutal treatment and abuse of sub-Saharan Africans within its borders. In response to such vitriol, government officials in Morocco have vowed to adopt a more "humane" approach to its increasing population of unwanted immigrants, particularly the estimated 20,000 sub-Saharan Africans already in the country (a figure that has quadrupled in just the past few years, according to the North Africa Post newspaper). Some black people in Morocco have even been the victims of violence perpetrated not only by Moroccan police and security officers, but by ordinary citizens as well. King Mohamed VI himself has admitted that concerns raised by Morocco’s National Human Rights Council (MNHC) over the country’s asylum and immigration policy are "legitimate."
(4) The conditions for migrants who have reached Greece are shameful as well.
-Greece vows to improve conditions in overcrowded migrant camps.
-"Since European neighbors closed their borders to Greece almost nine months ago, and with the additional strains of the EU-Turkey deal, thousands of refugees and migrants have been stranded in Greece, while new boats continue to arrive, nearly 2000 people just in November. Many are still living in tents, warehouses and barracks. Temperatures havedropped to zero, there is snow and lack of proper heating". (From this reference)
-Fire breaks out at Moria migrant camp on Greek island of Lesbos.
-In Photos: Inside Greece's Idomeni Camp, Where 13,000 Migrants Are Stuck in Purgatory.
-Human Rights Watch has detailed conditions in Greek camps, as well.
(5) The International Organization for Migration published a report on migration in 2016: 'Dangerous journeys – International migration increasingly unsafe in 2016'.
(6) From the beginning, the UNHCR (i.e. UN Refugee Agency) has outlined many potential problems with the EU's deal with Turkey, which do not seem to have been addressed, given what has been detailed above.
-The UNHCR on the EU-Turkey deal.
-EU-Turkey refugee deal – Q&A (at The Guardian, details several issues with the deal).
(Here is a link to a brief history of the UN Refugee Agency, for those who are interested.)
OP: So much for humanity, I guess. And I can't help thinking that this is repeating mistakes of the past.