On June 24, at least 23 people, mostly Sudanese asylum seekers, died on the Moroccan side of the border with the Spanish enclave of Melilla. According to the police version, they died of suffocation after trying to jump the border fences and confronting the agents, but the images released show that the Moroccan soldiers used force against migrants and refugees.
From both sides of the border, migrant communities and human rights defenders denounce police repression and ask for justice. Our correspondent in Morocco, Sofia Català, visited the area:
On June 24, there was a police massacre on the Melilla border, in which at least 23 migrants died, most of them Sudanese asylum seekers, as a result of an operation by the authorities of Spain and Morocco.
According to the police version, these people suffocated to death in an avalanche after trying to jump the network of border fences and clash with the agents on the Moroccan side of the border. But images released by the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH) show that Moroccan forces used brutal violence against migrants and refugees to prevent their entry into the Spanish enclave.
The authorities estimated the number of migrants who tried to jump the fence at 2,000, but the majority of survivors with whom this medium has been able to speak say there were about 400. Among them, about 130 people managed to access Melilla. Others were trapped in Morocco or were returned to this country after reaching Spanish soil and the Moroccan police detained them or forcibly moved them away from the border.
This is the case of a young Sudanese who fears revealing his identity because he lives “terrified” by the Moroccan police. We found him more than 800 kilometers from the Spanish border three days after the massacre. He recognizes his body in the images released by the AMDH and explains that he managed to jump the fence, that the Spanish agents detained him and that the police crossed to Spanish soil to take him back to Morocco:
The Spanish police held me, beat me and then handed me over to the Moroccan police, who took me to the Moroccan side. Then I saw how they were taking out the rest of the people. They beat us and told us: ‘Die, die’. I swear to God that people didn’t suffocate, they were beaten to death.
The physical and emotional sequels that this young man suffers are obvious, the result of brutal police charges, persecution, summary expulsions, forced displacement and a painful etcetera of human rights violations that Morocco executes in the framework of the externalization of migratory policies of the European Union.
“We cannot understand that they applaud and enjoy seeing corpses”
“The European Union is the one who finances all this migratory policy. All the migratory policy of Spain and Morocco and the repression towards migrants to keep them away from the border is a European responsibility”, explains Omar Naji, human rights defender and member of the AMDH of Nador, border city with Melilla. He is referring to the millionaire amounts that Spain and Brussels pay Morocco annually to prevent migrants and refugees from approaching the border by all means.
Omar monitors the border, tries to collect information on deaths and disappearances, denounces human rights violations and informs the families of the victims.
He says that the bodies of the deceased are still in the Nador hospital morgue without being identified and without an autopsy. The Moroccan authorities prevent us from accessing said hospital and filming in the cemetery where the bodies will be buried, a place where at least 20 graves have been dug.
On the other side of the border, in Melilla, the survivors of the massacre protest demanding Justice for the dead brothers. “Black lives matter, black lives matter!” They shout on their way from the Temporary Immigrant Stay Center (CETI) to the center of the city, where they gather to publicly demand that the governments of Spain and Morocco respect human rights.
“We appeal to the Government of Spain. Why doesn’t it respect human rights? We can’t understand why they applaud and enjoy seeing corpses,” says Husein, also a Sudanese and representative of asylum seekers from the CETI in Melilla.
With the certainty that no judicial investigation will be opened, thousands of migrants and refugees like these young people are not willing to give up their defense of the right to life despite the death inflicted on European borders.
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