A Spanish police officer saved a newborn baby from the sea after thousands of people swam ashore from Morocco.
Hundreds of people tried to force their way past tightened security into Ceuta on Wednesday, as Spain pressed on with the expulsion of thousands who had swum or climbed into its North African enclave over the past two days as the crisis worsens.
In a Twitter post published by Spain’s Guardia Civil the heroic officer is seen holding up the tot from the water.
Other images published alongside it show more children being plucked from the waters and taken to safety.
The police force said: “Civil Guards of the GEAS [diving team] and the ARS save the lives of dozens of minors who came to Ceuta by sea with their families.”
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 those returned said they would again try to reach Europe.
The Spanish government has since urged other mainland regions to relieve crammed reception centres for children in the North African enclave.
Some 1,500 children and teenagers had crossed from Morocco.
A source familiar with the talks said the Social Rights Ministry had held an emergency meeting on the issue where it asked regional authorities to accept 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, expecting an agreement in coming days even though centres in regions such as Andalusia or the Canary Islands were already overcrowded.
TV footage showed hundreds of newly-arrived teenagers being processed at a Ceuta warehouse where Red Cross officials gave out food and drink.
In some of the most dramatic moments since the surge in arrivals began on Monday images showed a boy appearing to be 13 to 14 years old swimming to Ceuta’s beach with a dozen empty plastic bottles tied to his body as floatation devices.
He then tried to climb the parapet before being seized by soldiers who accompanied the crying boy through the gate to the security zone between the two countries.
Spanish police divers rescued several small children from the water during the crossing and soldiers deployed at the border could be seen helping youngsters to climb ashore.
Of the thousands still in Ceuta, many were children, some as young as seven or nine, some without families, said Spain’s Social Rights Minister Ione Belarre.
“We are working to address the issue of children who have come alone,” she told broadcaster TVE. “Many of them did not know the consequences of crossing the border.
“And many of them want to go back. So we are working to make that possible.”
Deporting minors is illegal in Spain.