More than 100 people, including two families with children, swam overnight from Morocco to enter the neighbouring Spanish enclave of Ceuta on Monday, according to local authorities.
The migrants and refugees set off from beaches south of Ceuta and were detained when they entered the tiny Spanish territory, according to a spokesman for the Guardia Civil police force.
They were mostly young men, but children and women were also among the arrivals, said a spokesman for the Spanish government delegation in Ceuta.
Some used inflatable swimming rings while others used rubber dinghies, the spokesman told the AFP news agency.
“It was low tide and in some places, you could practically walk across,” he said.
Red Cross workers checked the migrants and refugees before they were taken to a reception centre, the AFP reported.
Spanish authorities were in touch with their Moroccan counterparts, but it was too soon to say whether the Moroccans would be deported, a spokesman for the Spanish government delegation in Ceuta told The Associated Press news agency.
The spokesman, who was not authorised to be identified by name, said he could not state the exact number of people who had made the crossing, but confirmed there were “more than 100”.
Police were in the process of identifying them, the spokesman added.
Ceuta and nearby Melilla, another Spanish enclave situated in North Africa, have the European Union’s only land borders with the continent, making them popular entry points for those seeking a better life in Europe.
Every year, hundreds of people risk injuries or death while trying to reach the territories by jumping over fences, hiding inside vehicles, or swimming around breakwaters that extend into the Mediterranean Sea.
A 10-metre (32-foot)-tall double fence surrounds the 8km (5 miles) of Ceuta’s southwestern border with Morocco, with the rest of the tiny territory facing the Strait of Gibraltar and the European mainland across the Mediterranean Sea.
More than 100 young Moroccans swam into the Spanish territory at the end of April, most of whom were returned to their country in less than 48 hours, after being confirmed as adults.
Spain does not grant Moroccans asylum status.
It only allows unaccompanied children to legally remain in the country under the government’s supervision.