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At least 37 African migrants have now been killed trying to enter Morocco’s Spanish enclave after crowd pile-ups and alleged police brutality, an NGO claimed.
More than 2,000 young men gathered yesterday to scale the border wall at Melilla, the EU’s only land crossing on the African continent.
Moroccan officials who guard the checkpoint claimed many were killed in the crush, with others seriously injured falling from the fence.
Walking Borders spokeswoman Helena Maleno tweeted last night that 37 were killed – with the death toll ‘not final’.
Around 100 migrants made it across the frontier.
Shocking video published by the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH) and verified by Reuters shows police officers beating helpless wounded migrants.
Batons are used to strike one young man lying on the floor surrounded by bodies.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called the crossing attempt ‘an attack on the territorial integrity of our country’, blaming the deaths on people traffickers.
Horror images show what appear to be scores of bodies piled up by the Africa-EU border fence
Video shows dozens of African migrants lying on the floor and surrounding by Moroccan police at the Barrio Chino Border Checkpoint
The Spanish government said around 140 Spanish police officers were injured.
As well as the 37 reportedly killed, at least 50 were injured.
Last night the death toll was 18, with 70 thought to be seriously wounded.
Video released by the AMDH shows what appears to be dozens of migrants, many motionless and apparently lifeless, piled up at the Barrio Chino Border Checkpoint.
Omar Naji, local head of the AMDH said those in the pile had been left there for hours without medical treatment, leading to more deaths.
However, Melilla regional president Eduardo de Castro said the images were difficult to explain and accused Moroccan security forces of a disproportionate response.
A young Sudanese migrant shows scars after making it to at the shelter in Nador, Morocco
Migrants climb the fences separating the Spanish enclave of Melilla from Morocco in Melilla, Spain, on Friday
Morocco deployed a ‘large’ amount of forces to try to repel the assault on the border, who ‘cooperated actively’ with Spain’s security forces, the delegation said
Some 2,000 migrants made their way to the border at dawn and over 500 managed to enter the border control area after cutting a fence with shears, the Spanish government’s local delegation said
A Moroccan official said security personnel had not used undue force.
One AMDH video showed dozens of African migrants piled together, many motionless and a few making feeble movements as Moroccan officers in riot gear looked on.
The same clip showed security forces pulling two bleeding and dazed-looking migrants past those lying on the ground. Another showed a Moroccan security officer striking a person who lay prone.
The raid was the first attempted from Morocco into one of Spain’s two North African enclaves since the countries agreed this year to bolster cooperation on border control.
The double-layered border fence is the EU’s only land border on the African continent
That deal, which ended months of frosty relations, came after Spain backed Morocco’s stance over Western Sahara, a disputed territory that Rabat says is its own, but where an independence movement is fighting for a separate state.
There are fears that drought in Africa and surging food prices – even before the war made shipping Ukrainian grain to Somalia, Egypt and other developing nations impossible – could drive up the number of migrants fleeing to Europe.
Friday’s incident followed days of rising tension in the area around Melilla, according to Ousmane Ba, a Senegalese migrant in nearby Nador who runs a community group to help other migrants.
Ba, who neither took part in Friday’s incident nor witnessed it, said migrants living nearby had clashed several times with Moroccan security forces while trying to cross the fence earlier this week.
A migrant is detained by police officers on Spanish soil after crossing the fences separating the Spanish enclave of Melilla from Morocco in Melilla
A police officer is seen leaning over after migrants stormed the fence and entered Melilla on Friday
A migrant runs on Spanish soil after crossing the fences separating the Spanish enclave of Melilla from Morocco
Thousands of migrants can be seen facing a smaller group of border guards after they crossed the fence separating Melilla from Morocco
Melilla and Ceuta, Spain’s other tiny North African enclave, have the European Union’s only land borders with Africa, making them a magnet for migrants
Many of them are living rough in countryside nearby and were desperate, he said. ‘I have never seen migrants attacking this violently. We deplore the deaths near the fence,’ he said.
A Spanish police source said the migrants who stormed the fence had used sticks, knives and acid against security forces and had changed tactics to try crossing at one perceived weak spot en masse, rather than in separate attempts along the fence.
Images posted on Twitter by Spain’s Civil Guard union – whose veracity Reuters was unable to verify – showed a large column of mostly young male migrants streaming through streets near the border.
Some appeared to be carrying sticks and throwing projectiles as puffs of smoke marked the air around them.
Video showed the migrants cheering and raising their arms in celebration as they ran through the streets of Melilla after storming the fence.
At least 130 migrants managed to enter Melilla, the Spanish government’s local delegation said
A group of 2,000 migrants stormed the border fence at 8:40 am Friday and a ‘significant number’ managed to get in
Video showed the migrants – the vast majority of them being men – cheering and raising their arms in celebration as they ran through the streets of Melilla after storming the fence
Footage posted on the Facebook page of Segnan Live, a local TV station, showed migrants grappling at a small section of border fence in a large group as sirens sounded nearby and tear gas canisters released plumes of smoke.
An image of the aftermath published by AMDH showed a large concentration of people lying at what appeared to be a frontier gate, in an enclosed corner where two high metal fences met, with ambulances standing nearby.
The AMDH and Spanish rights groups issued a statement calling for formal investigations into the disaster and for authorities to not bury those killed until afterwards.
‘This is the most serious incident (on the border between Spain and Morocco) since 2014 when 15 people died,’ said Esteban Beltran, director of Amnesty International in Spain.