Spanish PM blames traffickers, migrants for deaths at border

FILE - Riot police officers cordon off the area after migrants arrive on Spanish soil and crossing the fences separating the Spanish enclave of Melilla from Morocco in Melilla, Spain, on June 24, 2022. Spain's prime minister on Monday, June 27, 2022,

MADRID — Spain’s prime minister has defended the way in which Moroccan and Spanish police repelled migrants final week as they tried to cross the shared border into the north African enclave of Melilla, depicting the try through which not less than 23 folks died as “an assault on Spain’s borders.”

“We should do not forget that many of those migrants attacked Spain’s borders with axes and hooks,” Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez mentioned throughout an interview Monday with The Related Press. “We’re speaking about an try to assault the fence that was evidently carried out in an aggressive method, and subsequently what Spain’s state safety forces and Moroccan guards did was defend Spain’s borders.”

Authorities in Morocco have blamed the deaths on a “stampede” of those that shaped early Friday as lots of tried to scale or break via the 12-meter (29-feet) iron double fence.

The barrier surrounds Melilla, a city of 85,000 separated from the Spanish mainland by the Strait of Gibraltar.

United Nations Secretary-Basic Antonio Guterres was “shocked” on the photos of violence, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric instructed reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York.

Dujarric mentioned the usage of “extreme power” by authorities on either side of the border “must be investigated as a result of it’s unacceptable.”

“States have obligations underneath worldwide regulation, and worldwide human rights regulation and refugee regulation” which “should be upheld,” he mentioned.

Nonprofits working in northern Africa and human rights organizations have deplored the therapy the migrants obtained from police on either side. However they’ve additionally directed their blame at Spanish and European Union officers who they are saying have basically outsourced border controls to Morocco and different states.

Sánchez, whose left-to-center authorities is making an attempt to enhance ties with Morocco following an acrimonious diplomatic dispute over Western Sahara, has refused to criticize the crackdown.

Talking on the palace on the outskirts of Madrid that hosts his workplace and residence, Sánchez instructed AP that his ideas have been with the households of those that died. However he blamed the tragedy on “worldwide human trafficking rings who’re cashing in on the struggling of human beings who solely need to search a greater life.”

“I insist, these are worldwide mafia teams that aren’t solely damaging the territorial integrity of Spain but in addition that of Morocco, which is a rustic struggling that irregular migration.”

Sánchez spoke to AP on the eve of internet hosting NATO leaders in a summit that goals to redraw the protection alliance’s technique for the following decade. Whereas Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will take heart stage on the Wednesday and Thursday assembly, the group may even debate its posture on Africa, the place Russian mercenaries are including to issues about migration, extremism and the impacts of poverty and local weather change.

Footage uploaded to social media exhibits how numerous migrants approached a bit of the fence and started scaling it. A number of the migrants hurled rocks at Moroccan anti-riot police making an attempt to cease them. At one level, the fence collapses, sending most of the migrants to the bottom from a top of a number of meters.

In not less than one video launched by Spanish on-line information web site, Spanish guards may also be seen escorting migrants again to the Moroccan facet, a observe that human rights activists say denies the proper of refugees to use for asylum on European soil.

Extra grotesque movies and images posted on-line seem to point out the aftermath of the crossing try, with scores of younger males, a few of them immobile and others barely shifting and bleeding as Moroccan safety forces stood over them.

Not less than 76 civilians and 140 safety officers on the Moroccan facet, and 60 Nationwide Police and Civil Guard officers on the Spanish facet, have been injured, in response to their respective governments. A small group of African males who did make it throughout the fence have been taken to a migrant holding heart in Melilla.

Moussa Faki Mahamat, head of the continent’s largest grouping of nations, the African Union, has known as for an investigation into the deaths. In a tweet, Mahamat mentioned he needed to “specific my deep shock and concern on the violent and degrading therapy of African migrants,” including that each one international locations have “obligations underneath worldwide regulation to deal with all migrants with dignity and to prioritize their security and human rights whereas refraining from the usage of extreme power.”

Whereas Moroccan authorities say 23 folks died along with scores of accidents each among the many migrants and border guards, activists declare that the demise toll is greater and denounce the EU’s coverage of placing offers with Morocco and different states like Turkey to manage migration flows.

A gaggle of 51 human rights teams mentioned Monday in a joint assertion distributed by Spanish NGO Strolling Borders that the deaths “are the tragic instance of the European Union’s insurance policies of externalizing its borders, with the complicity of a southern nation, Morocco.”

“The demise of those younger Africans on the borders of ‘Fortress Europe’ is a warning of the lethal nature of the safety cooperation on immigration between Morocco and Spain,” the assertion added.

Spanish authorities in Melilla, in the meantime, are utilizing the newest try by migrants to cross over in mass numbers to make an attraction for even higher ensures on their territorial safety. Final yr, when relations between Spain and Morocco have been frayed, Moroccan border guard let 1000’s of individuals cross in a couple of hours in Ceuta, Spain’s different enclave metropolis in Africa.

Since then, the Spanish media has been rife with debate about whether or not NATO would assist Spain out if its maintain of Melilla and Ceuta was ever in jeopardy.

“Melilla is Europe’s southern frontier, and that’s the reason Europe should look to the south,” Melilla chief Eduardo de Castro mentioned Monday.


Edith M. Lederer on the United Nations contributed.


Observe extra AP migration protection at


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