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More migrants enter Spain's north African territoriesPublish Date: Mar 03, 2014
More migrants enter Spain's north African territories
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MADRID - Fifteen African migrants, including a young girl, entered Spain's north African territory of Melilla illegally on Monday on a small inflatable boat, Spanish authorities said.

Three other African migrants entered Ceuta, Spain's other north African Territory, by passing underneath a barbed wire border fence, officials said.

Ceuta and Melilla -- which sit across the Mediterranean from mainland Spain, surrounded by Moroccan territory -- are a key entry point for migrants seeking a better life in Europe.

The two cities have the European Union's only land borders with Africa.

The rubber dinghy carrying the 15 migrants entered Melilla in the early hours of Monday though the territory's commercial port, the regional government said in a statement.

"The migrants started to run as soon as they reached the port and were detained by police," the statement said.

The migrants included one girl aged under 18 and 14 adult men.

Meanwhile in Ceuta, located about 400 kilometres (250 miles) to the west of Melilla, three African migrants crossed underneath the barbed wire fence separating the territory from Morocco through a pipe, a spokesman for the regional government said.

Police on Sunday caught a 19-year-old from Mali hiding inside a suitcase that was being carried by a Moroccan man across the border into Melilla from the Moroccan border town of Beni Ansar.

"The difficulties which the man had in carrying the suitcase raised the suspicions of the authorities," police said in a statement.

At least 14 migrants drowned in Moroccan waters on February 6 while trying to enter Ceuta by sea after several hundred tried to storm the land border.

In that incident, Spanish security forces were accused by human rights groups and witnesses of firing rubber bullets at the immigrants, sparking a heated debate in Spain.

In response Spain's interior ministry said last week it had banned border guards from firing rubber bullets to stop migrants crossing the fence into its north African territories.

More 200 migrants stormed across a triple-layer border fence into Melilla on Friday in what Spanish authorities said was one of the largest such crossings in years.

AFP

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