WHEN the ebola alert began, many minds turned to the Melilla borders and the images of hundreds of immigrants climbing the fence in an attempt to enter Spain. This fear gradually reduced since the virus would become apparent during the time it takes the African immigrants to travel from their original countries to the border. Yet these people are fully aware of the situation on Spain’s side of the border and have shown this with their latest tactic against the Civil Guard border officers.
Government representatives have stated that during the latest attempt to jump the fence, immigrants started to spit at officers while shouting the word “ebola.” The United Association of Civil Guards (AUGC) declares this to be an “obvious intimidation attempt” by immigrants who intend to enter Melilla “at any cost,” and also employ extreme violence using stones, wooden posts and anything else to hand.
Officers at the scene reported the latest tactic as a follow on to those already used to avoid police officers touching them, including climbing the fence naked or covered in faeces. The ebola tactic – which the AUGC considers psychological harassment – is well thought out following the first cases outside Africa. The association claims this worsens an already difficult situation at the Melilla fence where five officers were wounded last week, one sustaining serious head injuries after a five- metre fall.
Security measures on both sides of the border have recently been increased, meaning the immigrants know it is harder than ever to gain access and use any tactic they can think of. A few months ago a Moroccan man emptied a syringe full of blood over an officer’s face. The officer was worried for months afterwards he may have been infected by a disease, a fear which also affects the officers’ families. Police stated that such situations scare them as they have no idea whether the immigrants are healthy or not. At the fence, gloves have been used for a while now as a precaution as the immigrants tend to arrive covered in sweat and with open wounds. Face masks are now also used by some officers.
Yet AUGC representatives mention than even special uniforms are no good in avoiding ebola and ask for solutions to the situation at the fence, declaring “the civil guard cannot be used as a containing wall.”
A draft protocol for operations in managing suspected or confirmed ebola cases has been presented to syndicate representatives by the National Police’s human resources department. Police syndicates feel positive about this measure but warn that training and equipment are also required.