27 die trying to cross land border from Morocco to Spain

By Alyssa McMurtry


OVIEDO, Spain (AA): The death toll of migrants who died trying to cross from Morocco into the Spanish enclave of Melilla rose to 27 on Saturday, according to the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH).

Around 2,000 migrants, many from Sudan, tried to cross the militarized border fence on Friday.

At first, five people were reported dead, but later, Moroccan authorities raised the figure to 18.

Videos from the Moroccan side of the border show what appear to be dead bodies and people with severe injuries strewn out on the ground without receiving medical attention.

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 founder of Walking Borders Helena Maleno Garzon, who also confirmed the report of 27 dead.

Dozens of Moroccan and Spanish police officers were also injured during the storming of the border, where migrants were armed with homemade knives, sticks, stones and hooks to climb the border fence, according to Spanish news agency EFE.

Moroccan police used tear gas to disperse those trying to climb the border fence.

Several NGOs are calling for an immediate investigation into the treatment of migrants during the incident.

“We warn against any attempt to order the burial of the Sub-Saharan and Sudanese migrants who died yesterday without opening a global, rapid and serious investigation to determine responsibilities and shortcomings,” said the AMDH chapter in Nador, Morocco.

AMDH shared videos on social media that appeared to show dozens of migrants lying on the ground, many of them motionless and a few bleeding, as Moroccan security forces stood over them.

“They were left there without help for hours, which increased the number of deaths,” the human rights group said on Twitter.

Esteban Beltran, director of Amnesty International Spain, said: “Although the migrants may have acted violently in their attempt to enter Melilla, when it comes to border control, not everything goes.

“The human rights of migrants and refugees must be respected and situations like that seen cannot happen again.”

The International Organisation for Migration and UN refugee agency UNHCR said in a statement: “IOM and UNHCR urge all authorities to prioritise the safety of migrants and refugees, refrain from the excessive use of force and uphold their human rights.”

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

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Friday applauded the “extraordinary work of the Moroccan government in coordination with Spain to try to stop a violent assault, which was, in this case, well resolved.”

Last summer, Moroccan authorities stood passively by as thousands swam into the Spanish enclave of Ceuta amid a diplomatic spat over Spain treating the separatist leader of Western Sahara for COVID-19.

During Friday’s border crossing attempt, just 133 people managed to reach Spain, according to Spanish authorities.

Additional report by The Muslim News

[Map of Spain by CIA Factbook/Public DOmain]

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