MADRID : Spain rescued Tuesday nearly 500 African migrants trying to enter the country by boat while hundreds more tried to scramble over a border fence into the Spanish territory of Melilla.
Spain’s coastguard said it picked up 470 sub-Saharan Africans who were crossing the Strait of Gibraltar in 49 small boats, part of a surge of migrants across the Mediterranean to Europe’s southern shores.
The migrants included 68 women and 15 children, the coastguard said in a Twitter message. They all appeared to be in good health and were taken to Tarifa, Spain’s southernmost port. Calm summer seas have encouraged migrants to try to cross the narrow straight that separates Spain from Morocco, a coastguard spokesman said.
Spain’s coastguard has picked up nearly 900 migrants in the Strait of Gibraltar since Saturday, including 299 on Monday.
Italy has also faced a mounting influx of African migrants - the Italian navy rescued over 2,000 migrants over the weekend from boats in the Mediterranean.
About 700 sub-Saharan African migrants used makeshift wooden ladders to try to scale over razor-wire barriers that separate Morocco from Melilla at dawn, local officials said.
A first group of around 500 migrants charged the border at around 6 am (0400 GMT), and about 30 managed to get through, the government of Melilla said in a statement.
Three migrants were lightly injured in the attempt. About 50 migrants remained perched for several hours atop the fence under the watch of the police.
About an hour later another group of around 200 migrants charged the fence at a different location but none made it though.
Immigrants from all over Africa regularly attempt to cross the border fence at Melilla and a second Spanish enclave along the coast, Ceuta.
Spain has in recent months beefed up border security in the two territories, which have the european Union’s only land borders with Africa, as the numbers seeking to enter have swelled.
Both Spain and Italy have attempted to persuade their northern European neighbours to bear a greater share of the increasing immigration burden, but talks on an European-wide solution to the problem have made little progress