Morocco Melilla Ceuta enclave
Moroccan soldiers walk on the Moroccan side of a border fence with Spain's north African enclave of Melilla Reuters

Two Cameroonian migrants have died in Morocco near the Spanish enclave of Ceuta after Moroccan security services allegedly set fire to mattresses and blankets at the entrance of a cave they were hiding in.

The asylum seekers – nicknamed Vapeur (The Steam) and Le Bire – suffocated to death during the evacuation of a migrant camp in the Moroccan city of Fnideq, 7km from Ceuta. They fled to a nearby cave to escape police, who started a fire at the entrance without checking whether it was empty. Trapped by the flames, the 23-year-old and 24-year-old migrants asphyxiated to death.

Witnesses told France 24 that Moroccan authorities knew the two Cameroonians were inside the cavity. "There was a lot of smoke and a strange smell," said a migrant who called himself 'Pierre B'. "When the police left I went into the cave. I put a cloth over my nose and tried to see what was inside. It was in that moment that I saw one body...I immediately turned around. Then I was told there was not one, but two."

Helena Maleno, a volunteer for the Spanish organisation Caminando Fronteras based near Tanger, said she has noticed an increase in anti-migrant violence in recent months.

Some witnesses told her that the military, not police, was responsible for starting the fire at the entrance of the cave. "Even the local population does not support violence against migrants any more," she said.

Morocco's national security has confirmed that an investigation was under way on the incident. Morocco is one of the main hubs of African migration to Europe, due to Spain's enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta. Large groups of African migrants camping illegally in Morocco try to climb the enclaves' high fences to reach Europe.