Spain Migrant Deaths: More Than 25 Dead and Hundreds Injured as African Migrants Were Attempting to Cross From Morocco to Spain

My1sttoday News — Spain migrant deaths: more than 25 dead and hundreds injured as African migrants were attempting to cross from Morocco to Spain.

Melilla is Spanish territory, but on the North African coast some 150km (90 miles) from the Spanish mainland. It and its sister city Ceuta are the only land borders between Africa and Europe.

Spain Migrant Deaths: More Than 25 Dead and Hundreds Injured as African Migrants Were Attempting to Cross From Morocco to Spain
Migrants climbing the fences separating the Spanish enclave of Melilla from Morocco on Friday. Melilla and Ceuta, another Spanish enclave, have the European Union’s only land borders with Africa.
Image: Javier Bernardo/Associated Press

A spokesman for the Spanish government’s office in Melilla said that about 1,500 to 2,000 migrants approached the enclave at dawn Friday. He said that 500 had managed to enter a border control area after cutting through a fence, leading to violent clashes that also left security officers on both sides of the border injured.

In the unfortunate story that follows, many of them were crushed between the six-metre-high fences and Moroccan border guards, who used tear gas and batons on the migrants.

The death of at least 23 sub-Saharan migrants who were attempting to cross from Morocco to the Spanish enclave of Melilla is the worst tragedy of its kind, placing southern Europe’s immigration controls and its relationship with North Africa under scrutiny. Initial reports indicated five dead, but Moroccan authorities later raised that figure to 23. Helena Maleno Garzon, head of the NGO Walking Borders, says at least 37 people lost their lives and the figure is not final, may continue to increase, she said.

Videos footage seen online from the Moroccan side of the border show what appear to be dead bodies and severely injured people strewn across the ground without receiving medical attention.

Spain Migrant Deaths: More Than 25 Dead and Hundreds Injured as African Migrants Were Attempting to Cross From Morocco to Spain
Melilla and its sister city Ceuta are the only land borders between African and Europe.
Image: EPA

Other images show hundreds of people, some with clear injuries, lying in a pile on the ground with their hands tied behind their backs.

“The victims of the tragedy in Melilla agonized for hours under the cruel gaze of those who were supposed to help them and did not do so,” tweeted Garzon.

“The Moroccan police beat us and killed our friends and I don’t understand why,” Amir, a young man from Sudan who reached Melilla, told elDiario.es news site.

“The Moroccans hit me a lot,” said Karin, another Sudanese man. “The repression was very heavy. It’s never been like that before.”

Spain Migrant Deaths More Than 25 Dead and Hundreds Injured as African Migrants Attempting to Cross From Morocco to Spain
A cemetery has been prepared for burying the bodies of deceased migrants.
Image: EPA

This is the worst such tragedy that Spain’s two North African enclaves have seen.

At least six human rights organizations in both Morocco and Spain have called for an inquiry. Amnesty International expressed its “deep concern” over the events, and the Spanish Commission for Refugees criticized on Saturday what it called “the indiscriminate use of violence to manage migration and control borders.”

This is a catastrophe,” said Omar Naji, vice president of the rights association, one of the largest such nongovernmental organizations in Morocco. “In the hours that followed the clashes, no medical help was provided. They were left on the ground for hours,” he said, referring to the migrants, and added his voice to those calling for an inquiry.

A press release from the African Union Commission said Chairperson H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat expressed “deep shock and concern at the violent and degrading treatment of African migrants attempting to cross an international border from Morocco into Spain.”

The press release added: “The Chairperson calls for an immediate investigation into the matter, and reminds all countries of their obligations under international law to treat all migrants with dignity and to prioritize their safety and human rights, while refraining from the use of excessive force.”

Spain Migrant Deaths: More Than 25 Dead and Hundreds Injured as African Migrants Were Attempting to Cross From Morocco to Spain
The border fence separating Morocco from the Spanish enclave of Melilla on Saturday.
Image: Fadel Senna/Agence France-Presse

Meanwhile, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has only applauded Spanish and Moroccan collaboration on the border, saying the mass migration attempt was “well resolved.”
However, several politicians in Sanchez’s ruling coalition are calling on the prime minister to rectify his statements and launch an investigation.

“My condolences to the loved ones of everyone who unjustly lost their life,” said Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Diaz. “It makes sense to clarify what happened … no one should die like this.”
EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson also called the events “deeply troubling” on Sunday.

Moroccan police used tear gas and Spanish agents fired rubber bullets to disperse those trying to climb the border fence, according to images and reports.

This is the largest mass movement on this border since Spain and Morocco boosted bilateral cooperation after Madrid decided to support Rabat’s position on the independence of Western Sahara.

The violence at the Moroccan border sparked protests across Spain.

Spain Migrant Deaths: More Than 25 Dead and Hundreds Injured as African Migrants Were Attempting to Cross From Morocco to Spain
Protesters lie on the ground during a performance illustrating the death of migrants at the Spanish-Moroccan border on June 26, 2022, in Madrid, Spain.
Image: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez

The protests on Sunday are a positive sign of a fight against the government’s killer borders. As hunger and poverty grow, there will be more migrants and refugees. The battle continues to overthrow the border regimes of Britain and the European Union.

On Sunday, the Moroccan General Directorate of National Security said police carried out an operation against 59 irregular migrants planning to cross into the Spanish city of Ceuta, also in North Africa.

According to the United Nations, North Africans make up the majority of African immigrants in Europe.

“More than half of African migrants migrate across African countries, while around one of every four migrants has Europe as a destination region,” according to data website Statista.

“Among the macro-regions, Eastern and Western Africa host the largest number of migrants, with almost 60 percent of all international migrants in Africa.”

The Africa Center for Strategic Studies found that Morocco is ranked second on a list of 16 African countries with the most migrants.

What happened on the Moroccan border this weekend is a more violent version of when Spain ordered its armed forces to expel 8,000 migrants arriving by sea a little more than a year ago. In that instance, at least 4,000 migrants were returned to Morocco, but no deaths were reported, according to the Associated Press.

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