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Spain has says it’s intercepted 680 African migrants who tried to cross the Straits of Gibraltar in small boats. Another 30 managed to scale border fences to reach Melilla, Spain’s northwest African enclave.
Spain continued to foil its biggest potential refugee influx in four years on Tuesday. Spanish vessels picked up the occupants of 76 small boats.
Spain’s governing People Party attributed the migrant’s increased use of boats to tougher fences at Melilla and its other offshore enclave Ceuta.
The Spanish coast guard said those picked up while trying to cross the Mediterranean’s key waterway included 20 children and 95 women.
They were taken to a temporary shelter in a municipal sports center in Tarifa, Spain’s southernmost post.
During a similar bid on Monday, nearly 300 migrants were intercepted in 29 boats.
Southern Spain, Italy’s Lampedusa
The Gibraltar strait, a key shipping lane, separates Morocco and Spain by 15 kilometers (nine miles). It is a key route for migrants and smugglers – alongside Italian entry points, such as Lampedusa island. Italy’s navy rescued 2,000 migrants last weekend.
Authorities attribute the rise in numbers to traffickers taking advantage of calm, warm summer weather and the end of the Ramadan fasting season.
“The exact same thing happened last year,” said Spain’s government representative in Cadiz, Javier de Torre, adding that “organized crime groups” took advantage of the good weather.
Ladders versus razor wire
At dawn on Tuesday, about 700 sub-Saharan migrants using makeshift wooden ladders tried to scale Mellila’s six-meter-high barrier topped with razor wire.
Some 30 migrants managed to enter the enclave, said Spain’s interior ministry.
Spain began toughening its border security at the two enclaves in February when 15 migrants drowned while trying to swim to Ceuta.
The UNHCR refugee agency says so far this year more than 75,000 migrants, often fleeing violence in Africa and the Middle East, tried to cross the Mediterranean. About 800 people have died during these attempts.
About 10,500 children – two-thirds of them unaccompanied or separated from their families, were included in the UNHCR count.
Last month, Amnesty International said EU policy put refugees and migrants at risk by preventing them from seeking asylum. The organization said this pushed refugees to take perilous risks to reach Europe.