MELILLA, Spain (AP) — Spanish and Moroccan police thwarted a fresh attempt Thursday by dozens of African migrants to scale border fences and enter the Spanish enclave of Melilla. At least 25 migrants, many with bloody bare feet, clung to the tops of fences for hours.
After a seven hour standoff, authorities coaxed most of the immigrants down from the fence, gave them water and turned them over to Moroccan police.
The attempt was the latest in a recent wave of African migrants trying to breach this unusual border between northern Morocco and the enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta. Success is rare, but the promise is so great — the potential of a better life in Europe — that migrants from around Africa keep taking the risk.
In Thursday's assault, several dozen migrants tried to scale the fences but most were driven off, leaving just those perched on the 6-meter (20 foot) fence, who shouted "Freedom!" and "Victory!" and called for the Red Cross to help them from being returned to Morocco.
Two migrants even clung to the top of a lamp post by the fences. After hours of waiting, one buried his head in his hands. Others grimly held on to the fence, their bare feet visibly bloodied by the crossover attempt.
As the weather turned cold and the wind whipped along the picturesque cliffs of the Mediterranean coastline, most of the migrants eventually gave in and descended by ladder to be led limping out of Spain.
At least seven migrants had still refused to come down when Spanish authorities ejected journalists from the area.
Morocco and Spain have stepped up border vigilance since Feb. 6, when 15 migrants drowned trying to enter Spain's other north African coastal enclave, Ceuta.
Speaking in Brussels, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said illegal immigration is "unacceptable" and vowed to maintain a "very vigorous" fight against it. "We have the EU's only land border with the African continent, so we will keep working on it."