More than 600 African migrants forced their way through a heavily fortified border fence separating the Spanish North African enclave Ceuta from Morocco, using circular saws, shears and mallets to cut through the wire.
Around 800 migrants tried to push through the barrier at dawn, the Interior Ministry said in a statement, deterring police from intervening by hurling plastic bottles of excrement, quick lime and using makeshift flame throwers.
Migration has become a political issue in Spain since Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez took office in June and shortly afterward agreed to receive more than 600 migrants aboard a charity-run ship rejected by Italy and Malta.
Illegal migration to Spain has been increasing steadily for more than a year and arrivals by sea have risen dramatically in recent weeks with the arrival of warmer weather, straining services in southern Spanish towns.
While the numbers of migrants crossing the land border in Ceuta remains stable, irregular arrivals by sea more than doubled from last year to almost 17,000 so far this year, according to Interior Ministry figures.
The recent spike in migrant arrivals makes it hard to process and accommodate the incomers, authorities and charities said. Coastguard unions called on government for more resources to help with the influx.
Government held a crisis meeting with rescue services, police and charities on Wednesday to find emergency accommodation for 400 recently arrived migrants in Andalusia.
Over 200 rescued migrants were forced to sleep on rescue boats that brought them to shore in Algeciras because there was no accommodation for them, a city council spokesman said.
“The processing centre we have is overwhelmed,” he said.
Algeciras overlooks the Strait of Gibraltar separating Africa from Europe and is 14 km wide at its narrowest point and a key route for migrants wanting to enter Europe.