The deaths of at least 23 migrants seeking to reach Spanish territory from Morocco should be investigated urgently by both countries, the UN rights office, OHCHR, said on Tuesday.
The Morocco-Spain border incident took place last Friday when African migrants were reportedly “beaten with batons, kicked, shoved, and attacked with stones by Moroccan officials”, said OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani, in their attempt to scale the barbed-wire fence that separates Morocco from the North African, Spanish city of Melilla.
“This is the highest recorded number of deaths in a single incident over many years of migrants attempting to cross from Morocco to Europe via the Spanish enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta,” she said. “140 Moroccan border guards also reportedly sustained injuries.”
The OHCHR official urged Morocco and Spain to ensure that migrants’ human rights were protected at their joint border, and that border officers refrain from any use of excessive force.
An independent investigation was needed in view of the “competing accounts” of what had happened, she said.
“We also call on them to take to all necessary steps alongside the European Union, the African Union, and other relevant international and regional actors – to ensure human rights-based border governance measures are in place,” Ms. Shamdasani continued.
“These include access to safe migration pathways, access to individualised assessments and protection from collective expulsions and from refoulement, as well as from arbitrary arrest and detention.”