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IBRU: Centre for Borders Research

Boundary news

Boundary news Headlines

Border between Morocco and Melilla deemed ‘inhumane’ by human rights activists

(22 November 2013)

The Spanish government of Melilla has initiated razor-sharp barbed wire fencing to their existing border measures with Morocco. The border serves as a popular crossing for illegal sub-Saharan migrants hoping to reach the European enclave. Situated in North Africa, Melilla is Spanish sovereign territory and part of the European Union. 

In September 2013 African migrants from the Moroccan side of the border infiltrated the fencing at dawn in a coordinated attempt to reach European territory. Many of the migrants had been travelling for years heading northwards from multiple African countries.

Juan Lopez, member of the Green group Equo, strongly opposes the new razor wired fencing arguing, “It’s just criminal, because it won’t stop people trying to cross the fence. The only thing it will achieve is to cause horrific injuries. On a recent visit to the temporary migrant centre in Melilla I spoke to people who said that when these blades were used before they had to treat people with serious injuries. It is inhumane to do this.”

Juan Jose Imbroda, Mayor of Melilla, argues the need for stronger communication with the Moroccan authorities regarding the disputed border fencing. “The solution has to come from the other side of the border.” 

The fence first attracted media attention in 2005 when police were outnumbered by migrants in a similar mass crossing. Improvised ladders were used to scale the 10 foot high fence with many migrants sustaining serious injuries as a consequence.

Spain has two enclaves in Morocco, Melilla and Ceuta. Last year 2,841 immigrants reached these territories from the African mainland by concealment in transportation, swimming along the coastal region or attempting to clamber the heavily wired border fence.


“Razor wire on fence dividing Melilla from Morocco condemned as inhumane” , Paul Hamilos, The Guardian, 1st November 2013.

“African immigrants rush barrier into Spain’s Melilla enclave”, Reuters, 17th September 2013.

“Migrants again rush Spanish enclave fence”, Daniel Woolls, Washington Post, 4th October 2005.