Moroccan troops, attempting to prevent immigrants scaling a razor-wire border fence into Spain's African enclave of Melilla, killed six Africans on Wednesday night, a local government official said on Thursday.
It is the second time in a week migrants have died trying to get into the Spanish outposts of Ceuta and Melilla. Hundreds of Africans have stormed the borders in recent weeks and Spain and Morocco have responded by sending troops to the frontier.
Searching for a way to stem the influx, Spain announced it would send back to Morocco 70 of those who got over the fences in recent days after months traveling through Africa in the hope of reaching Europe, the ABC News reports.
Reasons given for the increase in the border assaults range from famine in West Africa — where most of the migrants come from — to Spain's decision earlier this year to give papers to illegal immigrants.
Another reason was the decision by Spain to double the height of the fence to 6 meters (yards). Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero blamed the famine for the rise in migrants attempting to reach the European Union. He said he would ask EU leaders at their next summit to give more help to Morocco to combat immigration.
Morocco said six Africans were killed as troops fought off the migrants in the Gourougou forest near Melilla, where hundreds hide out and make ladders before trying to cross. Nador province governor Abdellah Bendhiba said 400 migrants stormed surveillance posts in the forest on Wednesday night.
But Spanish human rights group Asociacion Pro-Derechos Humanos said there had been even more deaths and hundreds had been injured.