Calls to probe deaths of African migrants crossing into Spain
There are increasing calls for an independent probe into the recent deaths of African migrants trying to cross the border from Morocco to Spain.
Authorities in Morocco said at least 23 migrants died last Friday in a “stampede” after about 2,000 people tried to climb the iron fence that separates Morocco and Melilla with many of them falling in the attempt. Melilla is one of two Spanish enclaves in North Africa.
Human Rights Watch on Wednesday called for an independent, impartial investigation capable of determining what occurred and who bears responsibility for such loss of life.
“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, acting deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Officials in Spain, Morocco, and the European Union should condemn this violence and ensure effective, impartial investigations to bring justice for those who lost their lives.”
Human Rights Watch echoes the calls by Moroccan and Spanish organizations, UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, and the African Union for an inquiry. The African Union Commission chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, called for “an immediate investigation” and recalled 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.”
Reports that the authorities in Morocco may be organizing hasty mass burials are deeply concerning, Human Rights Watch said. On June 26, the Association Marocaine des Droits Humains (Moroccan Human Rights Association or AMDH) posted two photographs on Twitter of what it estimated were between 16 and 21 graves being dug in the Sidi Salem Cemetery, on the outskirts of Nador, the Moroccan town across the border from Melilla.
In Tuesday’s statement, the UN committee on Migrant Workers pointed out that “the Moroccan government is required to preserve the bodies of the deceased, fully identify them and inform their families, and provide the necessary support for the transfer of the bodies.”
Algeria condemned what it described as a massacre by Morocco of migrants from sub-Saharan countries who tried to cross the fence into Spain.
“Extreme brutality” and “disproportionate use of force” were the terms used to describe the event by the special envoy of the Algerian Government for Western Sahara and the Maghreb countries, Amar Belani, who called for an in-depth investigation by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
According to the diplomat, the methods used by the Rabat Police “are similar to summary executions.”
He also accused the Moroccan government of systematically violating human rights despite its role as “alleged champion of migration within the African Union and headquarters of the African Migration Observatory.”
According to the Spanish refugee agency CEAR, many of the migrants were from Chad and Sudan, meaning they had high chances of obtaining international protection if they had reached Spain.