Moroccan rights advocates yesterday demanded an investigation into the deaths of at least 18 African migrants who were among hundreds who tried a mass crossing into the Spanish enclave of Melilla.
The latest deadly drama on the doors of the EU took place at dawn on Friday when about 2,000 migrants approached the Moroccan border with the tiny territory.
More than 500 managed to enter a border control area after cutting a fence with shears, Melilla authorities said in a statement.
Moroccan officials said late on Friday that 13 migrants had died of injuries sustained in the incursion, in addition to five confirmed dead earlier in the day.
“Some fell from the top of the barrier” separating the two countries, a Moroccan official said.
Calm returned to the border area yesterday, with Moroccan security forces lightly deployed along the frontier, in a forested area where no migrants were to be seen.
A local resident said several buses had passed through to take migrants away.
Others “have probably moved away for fear of being displaced by the Moroccan authorities,” said Mohamed Amine Abidar of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH).
The AMDH has demanded a “comprehensive, quick and serious inquiry to determine responsibilities and shortcomings,” and warned against burying the migrants’ bodies until their deaths had been properly investigated.
Images on Spanish media on Friday had showed exhausted migrants lying on the pavement in Melilla, some with bloodied hands and torn clothes.
Speaking in Brussels, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez condemned the “violent assault,” which he blamed on “mafias who traffic in human beings.”
Melilla and Ceuta, Spain’s other tiny North African enclave, have the EU’s only land borders with Africa, making them a magnet for migrants.
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