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Human rights groups in Morocco and Spain have called for an investigation into the deaths of at least 23 people during an attempted mass crossing into the Spanish enclave of Melilla in northern Africa. Other accounts have the death toll at 37.
According to Al Jazeera, authorities said the individuals died last Friday as a result of a “stampede” after about 2,000 people tried climbing an iron fence that separates Morocco and Melilla, with some falling in the attempt.
The Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH), in a series of tweets on Saturday, called for a “comprehensive, quick and serious” investigation into Friday’s events and published videos of the aftermath of the attempted mass crossing.
Refugees are castigated by Spain’s prime minister.
Per The Guardian, while speaking to reporters on Saturday, Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, described the mass crossing as a “violent assault” and “an attack on the territorial integrity of Spain.” He blamed the “mafias that traffic in human beings.”
Mohamed, who was one of 133 who managed to cross into Spain, denied the allegation. “There are no mafias, we don’t have money to pay them. We organise ourselves,” he told broadcaster RTVE.
Mohamed left his home country three years ago and has since crossed five African countries to make it to Europe. Now that he has finally arrived, the trauma getting there has left him unable to sleep. “We don’t know who died among our friends – we don’t know who is injured, alive or dead,” he said.
In the wake of the tragedy, more than 50 groups called for an investigation. Among them was a group of about 50 migrants and refugees who had crossed into Melilla in recent months.
Video footage of the chaos sparks outrage
“Video and photographs show bodies strewn on the ground in pools of blood, Moroccan security forces kicking and beating people, and Spanish Guardia Civil launching teargas at men clinging to fences,” said Judith Sunderland of Human Rights Watch.
Per The Guardian, a large number of those who attempted to cross last week were asylum seekers fleeing conflict in Sudan, said the Spanish Commission for Refugees, suggesting that the violence had stopped people who were eligible for international protection from reaching Spanish soil.
The AMDH said many of those wounded “were left there without help for hours, which increased the number of deaths.”
International community demands answers for refugee treatment in Melilla
Five rights organisations in Morocco and APDHA, a human rights group based in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia, also backed the call for a probe. They urged authorities not to bury those killed until after formal investigations.
A Spanish police source told Reuters the people who tried to cross the fence had used sticks, knives and acid against security forces and had changed tactics to try crossing at one perceived weak spot en masse, rather than in separate attempts along the fence.
Some 133 people made it across the border, while 176 Moroccan security officers and 49 Spanish border guards sustained injuries, authorities say.
Amnesty International issued a statement saying it was deeply concerned by the events at the border.
“Although the migrants may have acted violently in their attempt to enter Melilla, when it comes to border control, not everything goes,” said Esteban Beltran, the director of Amnesty International Spain. “The human rights of migrants and refugees must be respected and situations like that seen cannot happen again.”
The Spanish Commission for Refugees, CEAR, also decried what it described as “the indiscriminate use of violence to manage migration and control borders” and expressed concerns that the violence had prevented people who were eligible for international protection from reaching Spanish soil.
The Catholic Church in the southern Spanish city of Malaga meanwhile said “both Morocco and Spain have chosen to eliminate human dignity on our borders, maintaining that the arrival of migrants must be avoided at all costs and forgetting the lives that are torn apart along the way.”
Whether its African students fleeing war-torn Ukraine being inexplicably housed in detention centers, Haitians being corralled and whipped in America before being sent back, or those desperately attempting to cross into Melilla, Blacks around the world are often treated with indecency and systemic rejection merely because of the color of their skin.