New migration offensive in Melilla: at least 27 dead, many injured

On Friday June 24, several thousand migrants tried, sometimes violently, to enter the Spanish territory of Melilla, in North Africa. The toll is terrible: during the assault, at least 27 migrants died. The wounded number in the hundreds among the migrants and the Moroccan and Spanish police. Following these events, the Spanish government’s border control policy is the subject of much criticism, both from international humanitarian organizations, police unions and political parties of the Spanish right.

A “coordinated and violent” action

The new attempt to cross the border between Morocco and Spain, in Melilla, took a tragic turn this Friday, June 24th. The day before, nearly 3,000 migrants of sub-Saharan origin approached the border with a view to crossing it illegally. Clashes erupted overnight from Thursday to Friday, during which Moroccan security forces tried to push back the migrants. 140 Moroccan police were injured along with 17 migrants on this occasion. The Spanish newspaper El Mundo reports two deaths among the Moroccan security forces, despite the denial of the authorities of this country.

The next day, from 8:40 a.m., a group of more than 500 migrants managed to thwart the roadblock of Moroccan police and headed for the Barrio Chino border post. The door of this crossing point was quickly cut with the help of shears, allowing 133 migrants to cross into Spanish territory. Other illegal immigrants tried to cross over the border fence.

According to human rights organizations, during the intrusion attempt, at least 27 migrants were killed in stampedes and falling from the fence. The President of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights, Helena Maleno, reported 37 deaths among migrants. Authorities in Melilla said 49 Spanish Civil Guard officers were injured in the clashes along with 57 illegal immigrants. The prefecture of Melilla speaks of the migrants who stormed the border post as a “perfectly organized and violent” group.

Differing reactions

Following these events, Amnesty International called for an “independent and full” investigation to shed light on what happened. The NGO once again denounces “hot pushbacks” at the border, a practice which would be prohibited by international law. IOM. and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees recalled the need “in all circumstances to prioritize the security of migrants and refugees”.

The Spanish Prime Minister, the Socialist pedro sanchezreacted by accusing “the mafias who engage in human trafficking of being responsible for the violent assault on the border with Morocco in Melilla”.

On the right, the president of the Spanish political party Vox, Santiago Abascal, points to other responsibilities: “Today’s dead and injured are the responsibility of the attraction effect created by the progressives. And especially the government and NGOs who collaborate with human traffickers and have brought insecurity and disintegration”.

Law enforcement unions have condemned the violence with which some migrants have acted, as evidenced by videos taken on the spot where they can be seen armed with stones, sticks and hooks. They also underline the lack of resources. The Professional Association of Civil Guards Spaniards request the participation of the Spanish army in the control of the southern border of the country. His secretary mentions the fact that in the border sector, during the attack, there was less than one civil guard agent for 20 assailants. He urges the Spanish state to quickly provide anti-riot equipment, in order to prevent new members of the police force from being injured during a future attack. The other professional association of Spanish Civil Guards, AEGC., asks for an increase in manpower of 200 agents, so as not to depend in the event of attack on the reinforcements coming from the Iberian peninsula.

Illegal immigration as a means of pressure

Paradoxically, this new, particularly violent assault comes as diplomatic relations between Spain and Morocco have recently normalized, after strong differences over the fate of Western Sahara. Migrants no longer – or less – seem to be used by the Moroccan state as a means of diplomatic pressure, as was particularly acutely the case in May 2021, when nearly 8,000 of them crossed the border in a matter of minutes. days. One sign does not lie: as soon as relations between the two countries normalize, the number of migrants arriving in the Canary Islands fell in April 2022 by 70% compared to February, according to the Spanish interior minister.

However, migratory pressure is not weakening in Europe, quite the contrary. The Coast Guard and Border Guard Agency Frontex recorded an 82% increase in illegal crossings of the external borders of the European Union between January and May 2022, which amounted to 86,420.

Laws favorable to illegal immigrants

Has the Spanish socialist government taken stock of the situation? We can doubt it, given his latest decisions. In October 2021, Spanish MPs adopted a law facilitating the obtaining of a residence permit for foreign minors present in the country. Rather than systematically turning back migrants who take part in coordinated and sometimes violent attempts to cross borders, the Spanish authorities agree to investigate asylum applications filed by illegal immigrants who have managed to enter Spanish territory illegally. 800 asylum applications are thus currently being investigated after the assault at the beginning of March 2022.

More recently, the Spanish government announced its desire to regularize massively of foreigners in an irregular situation present on the national territory, “in order to meet labor needs”. In this context, the same causes producing the same effects, it will be necessary to observe carefully the lessons that the Spanish government will draw from the very many victims and wounded during the attack on Friday June 24 in Melilla.

Paul Tormemen

Photo credit: DR

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New migration offensive in Melilla: at least 27 dead, many injured

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