MADRID ( Associated Press) — The lack of a proper investigation in Morocco and Spain into the death of more than 20 migrants last June at the border in the Spanish enclave of Melilla in northwestern Africa “smells of cover-up and racism,” Amnesty says. he said. on Tuesday.
“There is a mounting mountain of evidence of various human rights violations, including the illegal killing and ill-treatment of refugees and migrants,” the rights organization said in a report presented in Madrid.
The deaths occurred on 24 June, when some 2,000 migrants stormed the Melilla border fence on the Moroccan side. At least 23 people were killed, although rights groups say the number is higher. Spain denies that its police forces used undue force and says there have been no deaths on Spanish soil. Morocco has virtually not commented on the incident.
Neither of the two countries, the AI said, “guarantees an effective and transparent investigation to establish the truth about what happened that day.”
“Families and specialist organizations searching for the missing have faced repeated obstacles from the Moroccan authorities.”
Amnesty said 37 migrants had died and another 77 were still missing.
Videos released in a joint investigation by NGO Lighthouse, Spanish newspaper El Pais and other media organizations showed the gruesome incidents before AI’s report.
Hundreds of men, some with sticks and other items, climbed over the fence from Morocco and surrounded themselves in an intermediate area across the border. When they managed to force their way through the door to the Spanish side, it seemed that many were crushed to death in the stampede.
Moroccan police used tear gas and beat the men with batons, even when some were on the ground. The Spanish guards rounded up a group of people who had apparently made it before sending them back.
The clash ended with several men, apparently injured or even dead, piled on top of each other as Moroccan policemen with riot gear looked on. According to the media, many were Sudanese refugees.
Spain’s Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlasca says the Spanish police response was “appropriate” to what he described as a group of about 1,700 migrants who used batons, sticks, axes and saws.
“I don’t know of any country that accepts a violent attack on its border,” Grande-Marlasca said last month.
The Amnesty report stated that the events of the day could have been predicted and the loss of life could have been avoided. He also accused the Moroccan and Spanish authorities of not providing prompt and adequate medical assistance to the injured.
Metal fences surround Melilla, a city of 85,000 residents separated from the Spanish mainland by the Strait of Gibraltar.
The sister enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta have become crossing points for African migrants willing to risk their lives to escape war and poverty.
Spain’s public prosecutor’s office and ombudsman have opened an investigation into the incident in Melilla. The Council of Europe, which acts as a human rights watchdog, has also expressed its concern.