Deaths rise to 23 from mass attempt to enter Spanish enclave

The death toll after trying to climb the border fence between Morocco and a Spanish enclave in North Africa rose to 23 on Saturday, as human rights organizations in Spain and Morocco called on the two countries to investigate the circumstances of the deaths.

Moroccan authorities said that the individuals died as a result of a “scramble” of people trying on Friday to climb the iron fence separating Melilla and Morocco. The Moroccan Interior Ministry said in a statement that 76 civilians were wounded, along with 140 Moroccan security officers.

The department initially reported five deaths. Local authorities quoted Moroccan state TV 2M updated the number to 18 on Saturday and later reported that the death toll had risen to 23. The Moroccan Association for Human Rights reported 27 dead, but this number could not be immediately confirmed.

MAP said that two members of the Moroccan security forces and 33 migrants who were injured during the border breach are receiving treatment in hospitals in the cities of Nador and Oujda.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Saturday condemned what he called a “violent assault” and “an assault on the territorial integrity” of Spain. Spanish officials said 49 members of the Civil Guard were slightly injured.
“If there is anyone responsible for everything that appears to have happened on that border, it is the mafia that traffics in people,” Sanchez said.

His comments came as the Moroccan Association for Human Rights published videos on social media showing dozens of migrants on the ground, many of them motionless and a few bleeding, while Moroccan security forces stood on top of them.

Migrants run on Spanish soil after crossing the fence separating the Spanish enclave of Melilla and Morocco in Melilla, Spain, Friday, June 24, 2022 (AP Photo/Javier Bernardo)

“They were left there without help for hours, leading to an increased death toll,” the human rights organization said on Twitter. He called for a “comprehensive” investigation.

In another video of the association, a Moroccan security officer is shown using a baton to hit a person lying on the ground.

In a statement issued late Friday, Amnesty International expressed its “deep concern” about events at the border.

“Although the migrants may have acted violently in trying to enter Melilla, when it comes to border control, things are not going well,” said Esteban Beltran, director of Amnesty International in Spain. “The human rights of migrants and refugees must be respected, and such situations cannot happen again.” Five human rights organizations in Morocco and the APDHA, a human rights group based in the Andalusia region of southern Spain, have also called for investigations.

The International Organization for Migration and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in response to a statement expressing their “deep sadness and concern” at what happened on the border between Morocco and Melilla.

Dozens of migrants stormed the border crossing between Morocco and the Spanish city of Melilla on Friday, in the first such incursion since diplomatic relations between Spain and Morocco were repaired last month. (AP Photo/Javier Bernardo)

“IOM and UNHCR urge all authorities to prioritize the safety of migrants and refugees, to refrain from excessive use of force and to uphold their human rights,” the two organizations said.

In a statement published on Saturday, the Spanish Commission for Refugees, CEAR, denounced what it called the “indiscriminate use of violence to manage immigration and control borders” and expressed concerns that the violence prevented people eligible for international protection from accessing the Spanish language. Soil.

The Catholic Church in Malaga, southern Spain, also expressed its dissatisfaction with the events. It said in a statement drafted by a delegation from the diocese focused on immigration in Malaga and Melilla.

Riot police officers cordon off the area after migrants arrive on Spanish soil and cross the fence separating the Spanish enclave of Melilla and Morocco in Melilla, Spain, Friday, June 24, 2022 (AP Photo/Javier Bernardo)

A spokesman for the Spanish government office in Melilla said about 2,000 people tried to cross the border fence but were stopped by Spanish Civil Guard police and Moroccan forces on both sides of the border fence. A total of 133 migrants arrived across the border.

The mass transit attempt was the first since relations between Spain and Morocco repaired after a year-long dispute over Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony that Morocco annexed in 1976. The improvement in relations came after Spain backed Morocco’s plan to grant more autonomy to Morocco. territory, reversing its previous support for the UN-backed referendum on the status of Western Sahara.

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