Eleven Spanish guards were injured say authorities, in a territory in North Africa when 500 migrants forced their way through a border fence.
The latest rush to gain forced entry into the EU came as Morocco threatened it could let more migrants through. The mass entry was one of the largest since the fence was erected in 2005.
The sea route to Europe that saw a record number of deaths in 2016, so for many, an attempt to reach EU territory is safer than trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea.
The Spanish territories of Ceuta and Melilla have the European Union’s only land borders with Africa. The border consists of two fences, eight kilometers long and six meters high to keep migrants out of Europe. Between these a network of steel cables hinders movement.
The 700 migrants stormed the barrier and most broke through the border of Spain’s Ceuta enclave from Morocco on Friday.
They had stormed a gate in the 6-meter fence, with 498 making it into Spanish territory, the Spanish Civil Guard said.
A Ceuta government official confirmed to The Associated Press that 11 Spanish police were injured as well as two migrants who were hospitalised as a result of injuries they sustained in the assault. A Civil Guard spokesman said at least 10 members of Morocco’s armed forces were injured too.
Ceuta’s Red Cross emergency response team reported more than 30 migrants were treated for bone fractures and other injuries.
More than a thousand African migrants stormed the razor wire fence in January. In December more than 400 migrants managed to enter the tiny territory of Ceuta when a group of more than 900 attempted a crossing and in October more than 200 people made it over the barrier.
A video filmed by “Faro TV Ceuta” showed bloodied migrants celebrating the arrival on Spanish territory. Some were draped in Spanish and European flags shouting: “Freedom, freedom!”
Hundreds of people, mainly sub-Saharan Africans, live illegally in Morocco and regularly attempt to enter the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla with the help of human traffickers.
The latest attempt on the border came amid a tense trade dispute between Morocco and the EU over the interpretation of a free trade farm and fishing deal.
Last year an EU court ruled the trade deal did not apply to the Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony controlled by Rabat, as the disputed territory remained unclear and the EU did not recognize it as part of Morocco.
Morocco, angered by the decision, issued a warning on February 7 saying it would lead to “a new flow of migration” towards Europe and place the continent “at risk”.