ADDIS ABABA – The number of migrants who died trying to cross from Morocco to Spain climbed to at least 23 as African Union expresses “deep shock and concern” at the violent and degrading treatment of the African migrants.
About 2,000 people attempted to cross on Friday, but many were stopped by Spanish Civil Guard police and Moroccan forces on either side of the border fence. Later that day, 18 migrants were reported dead, and others injured in what officials from the two countries said on a “stampede”.
Five more people later died of injuries, raising the death toll to 23, reported the BBC on Saturday, citing Spanish officials.
The latest attempt to cross to Melilla was the first since Spain and Morocco resumed diplomatic ties in March after Madrid supported Rabat’s autonomy plan for the disputed region of Western Sahara.
Human rights campaigners on the ground said the number of deaths could be higher.
Spanish NGO, Walking Borders, said it has confirmed 37 deaths in the Melilla tragedy that ranks as the deadliest day in recent memory along the section of the EU’s only land border with Africa.
‘Violent Treatment Shocks AU’
Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat expressed “his deep shock and concern at the violent and degrading treatment of African migrants” by both Morocco and Spanish security officials.
Chairperson Mahamat has today joined more than half a dozen Human rights campaigners in calling for “an immediate investigation into the” tragedy befallen on the Africans attempting to cross an international border from Morocco into Spain.
He has also reminded “all countries of their obligations under international law to treat all migrants with dignity and to prioritize their safety and human rights while refraining from the use of excessive force,” reads AU’s statement.
Melilla and Ceuta, another Spanish enclave, have in recent years become a focal point for migrants attempting to reach Europe.
Featured Image Caption: Migrants who made it into the enclave went to a local migrant center. [Photo EPA]