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Interior minister to remove 'cruel' spikes from African border fences
INTERIOR minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska has made his first pledge since taking on the job and parking his career as top national judge – that of removing the barbed wire from the border fences in Ceuta and Melilla.
Acting national ombudsman Francisco Fernández Marugán, praised Grande-Marlaska's decision, saying the sharp metal barbs were 'of an extraordinary cruelty'.
And the Spanish Refugee Aid Commission (CEAR) championed the minister's move, adding that his next step should be to outlaw the practice of sending migrants straight back over the border upon arrival.
Grande-Marlaska said: “If these people [the migrants] have already got as far as the border fences in Ceuta and Melilla, they're going to seriously consider climbing it, whatever the risk.”
These two Spanish-owned enclaves on the northern Moroccan coast – the first across the water from Gibraltar and the second close to the Algerian frontier – represent the European Union's only land border with the African continent, meaning they are a popular migrant route.
Almost daily, those fleeing war, political unrest, persecution or poverty – or simply seeking a better quality of life – attempt to climb the six-metre chain-link fences separating Morocco from Spain.
Often, human avalanches of several hundred at a time 'flood' the fence to try to overwhelm border police.
Most are from sub-Saharan African countries and will have travelled overland for months to get there.
In a failed attempt to keep them out, sharp spikes – like barbed wire, but larger – were fitted to the top of the fences in 2005, but when the then socialist president José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero saw the hideous injuries they caused, he ordered the Melilla ones to be taken down.
The spikes remained on the Ceuta fence and, in 2013, recently-deposed PP president Mariano Rajoy ordered the Melilla wire to be fitted again – and extra spikes at the foot and midway up both border fences.
Among the barrage of backlash Rajoy suffered, Spain's newly-sworn in socialist president Pedro Sánchez promised, back in 2014, that if ever he were to lead the country, he would have the barbed wire removed.
Hundreds of migrants have been seriously injured in the last 13 years – in one high-profile case, 22-year-old Daouda from the former French colony of Burkina Faso lacerated his arm so badly that the bones and tendons from shoulder to wrist were showing, and he nearly lost the limb altogether.
Daouda, whose home country is 183rd in the world in human development with 84% living in extreme poverty and a life expectancy of just 56 years, was trying to join the rest of his family, who lived in Italy, where he hoped to get a job.
He had slept outdoors all through the harsh winter on the Moroccan side of the Melilla fence waiting for a chance to cross, and said even knowing he would almost rip his arm off, he would still go through it all again.
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