Deaths in Spain’s Melilla border crossing spark controversy

Nador, Morocco, Jun 26 (EFE).- As the death toll from a migrant rush on the Spanish enclave of Melilla continues to rise, Moroccan authorities are facing growing criticism over a brutal clampdown.

At least 23 people died when around 2,000 migrants on Friday attempted to breach the border between Morocco and Melilla, according to official figures.

But rights groups believe the death toll of the largest and most violent crossing attempt the residents of the Moroccan border town of Nador have witnessed is higher than reported.

The Nador authorities raised the number to 23 Saturday night, saying that five more people have died from their wounds in a hospital.

But the Moroccan Association of Human Rights (AMDH) says the death toll sits at 27, while the Spanish NGO Walking Borders says it is 37.

After videos went viral, heavy-handed Moroccan police officers, who were filmed firing tear gas and rubber bullet and using batons to stop migrants from crossing into Melilla, have sparked controversy in Spain.

Footage showing police guarding dozens of wounded and dead migrants at Nador’s Chinatown border crossing, from where 133 people managed to reach Spain, has shocked critics on the mainland.

Lying motionless on the ground and piled on top of each other, the sub-Saharan women remained in that condition for hours, while ambulances trickled in to transport the wounded and deceased, a process that lasted about 12 hours, witnesses tell Efe.

Ten Moroccan and Spanish rights groups, as well as Spain’s Unidas Podemos, condemned the footage and called for an investigation into the incidents.

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez defended the actions of the neighboring country at all times.

The mass crossing attempt was the first to take place since Spain reversed its stance on Western Sahara and mended diplomatic relations with Morocco after a year-long dispute.

This Sahara u-turn has forced Sanchez to face criticism from his own government.

NGOs have demanded “an independent judicial investigation, both on the Moroccan and Spanish sides,” into what happened at the Melilla crossing.

They also denounced delays in treating injured migrants and urged Morocco to identify the dead and return them to their families.

Morocco detained around 1,000 of those who tried to break through the border fence and transferred some 900 to towns in the center of Morocco on Saturday.EFE


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