‘A massacre’: refugees reel from lethal Melilla mass crossing | Spain

Seconds after Mohamed stepped on to Spanish soil, he circled to see how his pals had fared alongside the meters-high chain hyperlink fence that slices off the Spanish enclave of Melilla from Morocco.

“It was horrible,” mentioned the 20-year-old from Sudan. “It was a massacre; a lot of them appeared useless and lots of had been injured.”

Moroccan state TV mentioned 23 had been killed as about 2,000 folks, largely from sub-Saharan Africa, tried to cross into one of many EU’s two land borders with Africa final Friday.

NGOs on the bottom say the variety of deaths might be larger. “We have confirmed 37 deaths within the Melilla tragedy,” Helena Maleno Garzón of Strolling Borders mentioned earlier this week.

Chatting with reporters on Saturday, Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, described the mass crossing as a “violent assault” and “an assault on the territorial integrity of Spain”. He blamed the “mafias that site visitors in human beings”.

Mohamed, who was one in every of 133 who managed to cross into Spain, denied this. “There aren’t any mafias, we do not have cash to pay them. We manage ourselves,” he advised broadcaster RTVE.

He left his dwelling nation three years in the past, crossing 5 African international locations with the intention of creating it to Europe. He has lastly arrived within the EU, however the trauma has left him unable to sleep. “We do not know who died amongst our pals – we do not know who’s injured, alive or useless,” he mentioned.

Within the wake of the tragedy, greater than 50 teams known as for an investigation. Amongst them was a gaggle of about 50 migrants and refugees who had crossed into Melilla in latest months.

“Why is Pedro Sánchez saying that we’re mafias?” a younger man known as Huséin advised El País. “We did not pay something … we simply used our brains and got here up with a very good plan as a result of we had been struggling quite a bit.”

A big variety of those that tried to cross final week had been asylum seekers fleeing battle Sudanmentioned the Spanish Fee for Refugees, suggesting that the violence had stopped individuals who had been eligible for worldwide safety from reaching Spanish soil.

Pictures of what was the deadliest day on the border in latest reminiscence sparked consternation. “Movies and images present our bodies strewn on the bottom in swimming pools of blood, Moroccan safety forces kicking and beating folks, and Spanish Guardia Civil launching teargas at males clinging to fences,” mentioned Judith Sunderland of Human Rights Watch.

On Tuesday public prosecutors in Spain mentioned they’d opened an investigation into the deaths.

Throughout the border, Moroccan officers started a crackdown, prosecuting 65 individuals who had taken half within the crossing over accusations of igniting fires, attacking safety forces and facilitating unlawful border crossings, in accordance with Reuters. Lots of of migrants had been additionally shuttled away from the border and dropped at completely different factors in Morocco’s inside.

The Moroccan Affiliation of Human Rights accused officers in Morocco of attempting to cowl up the deaths, noting that six days after the tragedy, not one post-mortem had been carried out and there had been no efforts to establish those that had been killed.

On Wednesday António Guterres, the UN secretary common, added his voice to considerations concerning the occasions on the border. “I’m shocked by the violence on the Nador-Melilla border on Friday which resulted within the deaths of dozens of migrants and asylum seekers,” he wrote on Twitter. “Using extreme power is unacceptable, and the human rights and dignity of individuals on the transfer have to be prioritized by international locations.”

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Earlier within the week, the UN rights workplace advised reporters that it had obtained experiences of “migrants overwhelmed with batons, kicked, shoved and attacked with stones by Moroccan officers as they tried to scale the barbed-wire fence.”

The lethal group crossing was the primary since Spain and Morocco patched up relations after a year-long dispute centered on Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony annexed by Morocco in 1975.

Sunderland mentioned the tragedy underlined the necessity for a “critical reset” on the connection between Spain and Morocco.

She added: “Extra broadly, until there’s a rethinking of EU migration insurance policies that are based mostly proper now on deterrence, externalisation and outsourcing to 3rd international locations like Morocco, Libya and Turkey, it’s virtually inevitable it will occur once more.”

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