Photos: Spain sends in army as thousands of migrants swim, paddle from Morocco onto Spanish soil

A man holds up a baby in both hands while floating in the sea on an orange life preserver ring
A member of Spain’s Civil Guard rescues a baby who was separated from migrant parents in the sea off Ceuta, a Spanish enclave on the North African coast. Thousands of migrants swam around or jumped a border fence left unguarded by Morocco as part of a diplomatic dispute with its European neighbor.
(Spanish Civil Guard)

Spain deployed the military to its border with Morocco and expelled nearly half of the thousands of migrants who jumped fences or swam onto European soil over two days after the North African country loosened border controls amid a deepening diplomatic spat.

Overwhelmed soldiers separated adults from the young and carried children in their arms, while Red Cross workers helped an endless trickle of migrants who were emerging from the water shivering and exhausted. One unconscious woman lay on the sand before she was carried away on a stretcher.

The sudden increase in migrants has intensified the diplomatic conflict between Morocco and Spain over the disputed Western Sahara region and created a humanitarian crisis for Ceuta, the Spanish city of 85,000 on the Mediterranean, separated from Morocco by double 32-foot fences.

Morocco’s loosened border watch came after Spain decided to grant entry for medical treatment to the chief of a militant group that fights Morocco for the independence of Western Sahara. Morocco annexed the sprawling region on the west coast of Africa in 1975.

A small boat overloaded with more than a dozen young men and boys
Migrants arrive Wednesday at the Spanish enclave of Ceuta on the Mediterranean Sea.
(Bernat Armangue / Associated Press)
Two young men swimming onto shore are seen between the legs of a police officer standing on a rock
A member of Spain’s Civil Guard waits for migrants to exit the sea onto Spanish soil in Ceuta.
(Bernat Armangue / Associated Press)

A man lies on the ground on the beach after swimming to the area at the border of Morocco and Spain.
A man lies on the beach after swimming onto shore in Ceuta, at the border of Morocco and Spain. About 8,000 people had crossed by Tuesday afternoon since the first arrivals began early Monday, the Spanish government said, including 2,000 who are presumed to be teenagers.
(Javier Fergo / Associated Press)
Scores of migrants walk and swim around a border fence that extends into the sea
Migrants swim and walk from Morocco into the Spanish territory of Ceuta on Monday.
(Antonio Sempere / Associated Press)
A woman in a Red Cross vest tightly embraces a crying migrant man sitting on a rock at the beach
A member of the Spanish Red Cross comforts a migrant who had crossed from Morocco into Ceuta on Tuesday. The man was sent back to Morocco by Spanish security forces.
(Bernat Armangue / Associated Press)
Teenagers and young men sit on the beach, still wet from their swim crossing, surrounded by Spanish guards
Surrounded by the Spanish Civil Guard, migrants sit on the beach after arriving in Ceuta on Wednesday. At least 4,000 migrants have been expelled to Morocco, Spain’s Interior Ministry said.
(Bernat Armangue / Associated Press)
A military member in camo fatigues carrying a baton stands on a rock overlooking dozens of migrants exiting the sea
Migrants from Morocco stand on the shore as the Spanish Army cordons off the area at the border of Morocco and Spain on Tuesday.
(Javier Fergo / Associated Press)
A screaming man is carried along a beach by soldiers gripping each of his limbs
Spanish Army soldiers expel a migrant from Ceuta on Tuesday.
(Bernat Armangue / Associated Press)

A group of soldiers fight with batons against five young male migrants on a beach
Spanish Army soldiers swing batons at migrants on the beach in Ceuta on Tuesday.
(Bernat Armangue / Associated Press)
A man and a boy stand on top of a razor-wire-topped wall
A man helps a boy while climbing a border fence outside Ceuta on Tuesday.
(Mosa’ab Elshamy / Associated Press)
A young man takes a long stride across concrete breakwater blocks with Arabic and Spanish graffiti on them
A migrant walks along the breakwater in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta on Wednesday.
(Bernat Armangue / Associated Press)
Four boys reach down to help pull up a fifth while climbing a concrete sea wall
Migrants climb a sea wall in the northern Morocco town of Fnideq on Wednesday.
(AFP/Getty Images)
A man runs across a narrow street with a single car on it at night
A migrant runs after crossing into Ceuta from Morocco early Wednesday.
(Bernat Armangue / Associated Press)
Two men climb over a razor-wire-topped fence in the night
Migrants cross into the Ceuta commercial port on Wednesday. The group told the Associated Press their goal was to reach Spain’s European ports of Malaga or Algeciras after hiding inside a commercial boat.
(Bernat Armangue / Associated Press)

Children and teenage boys huddle together and sleep on cots and metal shelves
Children sleep inside a warehouse that was turned into a makeshift center for migrant youths in Ceuta.
(Bernat Armangue / Associated Press)