UN calls on Spain and Morocco to investigate deaths of at least 23 migrants seeking to enter Melilla

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The United Nation’s Human Rights Office has called for both Morocco and Spain to investigate the deaths of at least 23 African migrants seeking to enter the Spanish enclave of Melilla. The territory is located on the North African coast 150 kilometers from the Spanish mainland.

It is alleged about 2000 sub-Saharan African migrants attempted a mass crossing by breaching a fence into the Melilla territory, when they encountered border guards. Reports from the region also point to a number of Moroccan and Spanish security forces injured during the incident last Friday.

Protestors laid on the ground in a staged performance in Spain’s capital Madrid in an act to condemn the deaths of around two dozen migrants in the Spanish enclave of Melilla near Morocco with authorities saying the disaster occurred after a violent two-hour skirmish between migrants and security personnel.

“We are deeply disturbed by the deaths of at least 23 African migrants and injury of at least 76 others as they tried to cross from Morocco into Spain on 24 June. We call on the two countries to ensure an effective and independent investigation is held as a first step towards establishing the circumstances of the deaths and injuries and any possible responsibilities and to ensure that accountability as appropriate. This is the highest recorded number of deaths in a single incident over many years of migrants attempting to cross from Morocco to Europe via the Spanish enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta. Some 140  Moroccan border guards also reportedly sustained injuries during the incident,” says spokesperson with the UN Human Rights Office in Geneva Ravina Shamdasani.

Reports of violence 

The UN says it had received reports of migrants being beaten with batons, kicked, shoved and attacked with stones by Moroccan officials as they tried to scale the barbed wire fence separating Morocco from Melilla.

“How shocked we were at the images of the violence that we saw at the border between Morocco and Spain in North Africa over the weekend, which, again, resulted in the deaths of dozens of human beings, of asylum seekers, of migrants. We saw the use of also of excessive force by the authorities, which needs to be investigated because it is unacceptable. States have obligations under international law and international human rights law and refugee law,” says Secretary General’s Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.

More than 100 migrants were able to reach Melilla where they are reportedly being housed while their legal status is determined.

African migrants need to be protected

Security Council member Kenya called on countries to better protect African migrants in terms of their international obligations – as articulated by Kenyan Ambassador and deputy Permanent Representative Michael Kiboino.

“We have observed the Security Council and its members show great concern about the fate of refugees from other conflicts. The latest and most dramatic instance being the result of the war in Ukraine. We believe that Africans fleeing the wars and insecurity in their countries deserve equal levels of regard. As we have done before, Kenya strongly condemns the mistreatment of all migrants and refugees wherever they may be. We reiterate our call for the promotion and protection of the rights of the people of African descent by all countries, without exception.”

The incident in North Africa comes just as the bodies of 51 migrants were discovered in the back of an overheated truck in San Antonio Texas. Federal authorities have arrested three people in connection with the deaths of these migrants – people said to be from Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras among others.

While cross-border human smuggling continues to be a major challenge along the US-Mexico border, local police described the case as the deadliest known human smuggling incident in modern US history.