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Would-be immigrants row in an inflatable boat off the Spanish coast/AFP

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Migrants break through Morocco border into Spain

Would-be immigrants row in an inflatable boat off the Spanish coast/AFP

Would-be immigrants row in an inflatable boat off the Spanish coast/AFP

MADRID, Sept 17 – Hundreds of migrants broke through a border fence from Morocco into Spanish territory on Monday, clashing with police in a raid that left seven people injured, officials said.

About 300 migrants before dawn tore down part of the six-metre (20-foot) high fence around Melilla, a Spanish-governed exclave bordering northern Morocco, and about 100 made it through, Spanish government officials in the territory said in a statement.

They were the latest of thousands of migrants who try to reach Spain from Africa across the fence or by sea in flimsy vessels. Spanish officials say unrest in northern Africa has swelled their numbers in recent years.

“The raiders managed to pull down completely the border fence and entered violently, throwing objects at the security forces who tried to repel the assault,” the government statement said.

Six Spanish civil guards were injured as well as one migrant who was taken to hospital, believed to have broken his leg when he fell from the fence, the statement added.

The others who got into Melilla would be housed in an immigrant reception centre.

Home to around 80,000 people, Melilla has one of the European Union’s two land borders with Africa, along with the other Spanish territory of Ceuta, further west on Morocco’s northern tip.

The governor of Melilla, Abdelmalik El Barkani, said in May that police in the territory were struggling to cope with the flow of migrants.

He said fighting in northern Africa and a crackdown on migration to the Spanish Canary Islands in the Atlantic were driving greater numbers of migrants to Melilla.

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Human rights groups say the migrants are brought to Morocco from other African countries by traffickers and camp in the wild waiting for a chance to cross.

Others try to reach Spanish soil by sailing across the Mediterranean in makeshift vessels. On Monday officials said one migrant died and a dozen were missing after their boat capsized in the attempt.

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