A Spanish police officer rescued a newborn baby from the sea after thousands of people from Morocco swam ashore.
Hundreds of people tried to push past tightened security into Ceuta on Wednesday as Spain continued to displace thousands who had swum or climbed into its North African enclave in the past two days as the crisis deepened.
In a Twitter post published by the Spanish Guardia Civil, the heroic officer is seen holding the toddler out of the water.
Other images posted alongside show more children being ripped out of the water and brought to safety.
The police said: “Civil Guards of the GEAS [diving team] and the ARS is saving the lives of dozens of minors who came to Ceuta with their families by sea. “
About two-thirds of the roughly 8,000 people who made it to Ceuta, including unaccompanied children, have been expelled, Spanish authorities said, but many of the returnees said they would try to reach Europe again.
The Spanish government has since asked other mainland regions to relieve overcrowded reception centers for children in the North African enclave.
Around 1,500 children and young people had traveled from Morocco.
A source familiar with the talks said the Department of Social Rights held an emergency meeting on the issue, asking regional authorities to take in hundreds of unaccompanied minors who had arrived.
“The regions have shown solidarity with the migration crisis and are positive about the proposal,” the source told Reuters and expected an agreement in the coming days, although the centers in regions such as Andalusia or the Canary Islands were already overcrowded.
Televised footage showed hundreds of newly arrived teenagers being processed in a warehouse in Ceuta where Red Cross officials were distributing food and drink.
In some of the most dramatic moments since arriving on Monday, pictures showed a boy, ages 13-14, swimming on Ceuta’s beach with a dozen empty plastic bottles tied to his body as swimming aids.
Then he tried to climb the parapet before being grabbed by soldiers who escorted the crying boy through the gate to the security zone between the two countries.
Spanish police divers rescued several young children from the water during the crossing, and soldiers stationed at the border were able to help youth climb ashore.
Of the thousands still living in Ceuta, many were children, some only seven or nine years old, others without families, said Spanish Minister for Social Affairs Ione Belarre.
“We are working to address the problem of the children who have come alone,” she told TVE. “Many of them did not know the consequences of crossing the border.
“And a lot of them want back. So we’re working to make that happen.”
The deportation of minors is illegal in Spain.