Two dead as hundreds of migrants try to enter Spanish territory

Members of the Spanish Civil Guard Maritime Service monitor waters in the Strait of Gibraltar on August 21, 2015 (AFP Photo/Jorge Guerrero) (AFP/File)

Madrid (AFP) - Two migrants drowned and 12 others were injured Friday when they tried to enter into the tiny Spanish territory of Ceuta in North Africa by swimming from Morocco or scaling a barbed-wire fence, officials in both nations said.

Just before 4:00 am (0300 GMT) a group of over 300 migrants tried to get into the Spanish city which borders Morocco and is located across the Strait of Gibraltar from mainland Spain, the Spanish government authority in Ceuta said in a statement.

Moroccan forces intercepted over 120 migrants but 182 others managed to get into Ceuta by climbing over the fence or swimming into the territory, it said.

"Three of them needed to be reanimated by Spanish police officers who rescued them from the sea."

Twelve migrants were taken to hospital by the Red Cross to be treated for various injuries, it added.

Two people were recovering from near-drowning, one had an open leg fracture and the rest had deep cuts, some requiring stitches, the Red Cross said.

Morocco recovered two bodies in the waters near the border post, local officials told Moroccan state news service MAP.

The would-be migrants threw stones and used sticks against police, injuring several officers, they added.

The Spanish Red Cross said it gave clothes and shoes to the migrants before they were taken to a temporary detention centre in Ceuta.

It published photos of Red Cross volunteers helping and feeding migrants, many of them covered in blankets.

Ceuta along with Melilla to the east are two Spanish territories on the northern coast of Morocco that together form the European Union's only land borders with Africa.

Spain fortified fences in the two territories last year in response to a rise in the number of migrants trying to jump over the barriers from neighbouring Morocco.

Last year 15 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean after dozens tried to enter Ceuta by swimming from a nearby beach.

Human rights groups and migrants said the Spanish police tried to keep them from crossing into Spanish territory by firing rubber bullets and spraying them with tear gas.

Madrid has since said that its guards are now banned from using rubber bullets to repel migrants.