More Than 20 Killed as Migrants Attempt Crossing Into Spanish Enclave

Spanish and Moroccan activists have called for a probe into a clash that left at least 23 migrants dead at Spain’s North African exclave of Melilla. The unrest began when some 2,000 migrants tried to rush the border fence.

A rights group accused Morocco’s security forces of using “unjustified” violence against migrants trying to force their way through a border fence between the North African country and the Spanish exclave of Melilla.

Morocco said 23 migrants died on its side of the fence on Friday.

Spokesperson for the Moroccan Association of Human Rights, Amin Abidar said the migrants had been “mistreated” by Moroccan security forces during the border rush.

He described how migrants had been left trapped on the ground for hours without medical assistance.

The rights group shared videos on social media that purportedly showed dozens of migrants, some bleeding and lying motionless on the ground, with Moroccan security forces standing over them.

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The group said the lack of action by security forces likely led to many more deaths.

Abidar stated that the final death toll was likely to be much higher, and called on Moroccan authorities to hold an “urgent and fair investigation” into the incident.

Five other rights groups in Morocco and Spain backed up the call for a probe.

The Spanish Commission for Refugees described what it said was “the indiscriminate use of violence to manage migration and control borders.”

It said the violence had stopped eligible asylum-seekers from reaching Spanish soil.

Director for Amnesty International Spain, Esteban Beltran said “although the migrants may have acted violently in their attempt to enter Melilla, when it comes to border control, not everything goes.”

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The Moroccan Interior Ministry accused the migrants of using violence during the border fence storming.

It said that most were crushed to death in the “stampede.”

A Moroccan official said some of the migrants fell from the top of the barrier.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez condemned the “violent assault” by migrants which he called an “attack on the territorial integrity” of Spain.

“if there is anyone responsible for everything that appears to have taken place at that border, it is the mafias that traffic in human beings,” Sanchez added.

On Friday, Sanchez praised officers on both sides of the border for fighting off “a well-organized, violent assault.”

Melilla, along with Ceuta, another Spanish exclave to the west , are the European Union’s only two land borders with the African continent.

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In recent years, both towns have regularly seen dramatic border incidents involving migrants trying to reach the bloc.

Thousands of people, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, often wait close to the borders for a chance to enter the EU.

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