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37 Migrants Dead at Morocco-Spain Land Border Amid Police Use Of ‘Violence’
By Staff, Agencies
Human rights groups in Spain and Morocco demanded a probe into the deaths of at least 37 migrants after a mass attempt to scale the border fence into the Spanish enclave of Melilla in northern Africa.
Authorities in Morocco said the migrants died on 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.
The videos shared by the Moroccan Association of Human Rights appeared to show dozens of migrants packed into an area next to the border fence, some bleeding and many lying motionless, with Moroccan forces wearing riot gear watching over them in the aftermath of the crossing.
The African Union Commission chief Moussa Faki Mahammat in a statement posted on Twitter on Sunday expressed shock at what he termed the "violent and degrading" treatment of the African asylum-seekers attempting to cross the border.
He called for an investigation into the incident while reminding all countries of their “obligations under international law” to treat all migrants with "dignity" and to "prioritize their safety and human rights."
About 140 Moroccan and 49 Spanish security personnel were also injured in the incident, reports said.
Images published by Spanish media showed people lying on the pavement in Melilla, some with bloodied hands and torn clothes.
The International Organization for Migration [IOM] and the United Nations refugee agency [UNHCR] in a statement expressed “profound sadness and concern” over the incident while urging the authorities to “prioritize the safety of migrants and refugees, refrain from the excessive use of force and uphold their human rights.”
“IOM and UNHCR urge all authorities to prioritize the safety of migrants and refugees, refrain from the excessive use of force and uphold their human rights,” the organizations said.
The Spanish Commission for Refugees [CEAR] also criticized what it described as “the indiscriminate use of violence to manage migration and control borders” and said the violence had prevented people who were eligible for international protection from reaching Spain.
Moroccan human rights associations blamed the Spanish-Moroccan migration agreement for the tragedy.
“The deaths and the injured are a tragic symbol of the European policies to externalize the EU’s border, with the complicity of a Southern country, Morocco,” they said in an open letter.
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