Twenty-three migrants died during an attempt to forcibly cross nearly 2,000 illegal immigrants of African origin on Friday in the Spanish enclave of Melilla, in northern Morocco, according to an updated report published on Saturday evening by Moroccan local authorities. 23 people died Friday in Melilla, when nearly 2,000 African migrants tried to enter by force into this Spanish enclave located in Moroccan territory. Spain strongly denounced on Saturday “an attack” against its territorial integrity and accused “mafias”. Spain’s Socialist Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, described the drama as a “violent and organized (…) assault by mafias who traffic in human beings, against a city that is Spanish territory”. Melilla is landlocked in Moroccan territory. “Therefore, it was an attack on the territorial integrity of our country”, he added during a press conference in Madrid, praising the work of the Moroccan gendarmerie “which worked in coordination with the Spanish security forces and bodies. Some 140 members of the Moroccan security forces were injured, according to Moroccan authorities. A total of 130 migrants managed to enter Melilla on Friday, one of whom remained hospitalized, according to sources from the Spanish prefecture. The 23 migrants who perished died “in jostling and falling from the iron fence” during “an assault marked by the use of very violent methods on the part of the migrants”, underlined for his part. a source from the authorities of the province of Nador, a city bordering Melilla, in northern Morocco. According to these same authorities, 18 migrants and a member of the police remain under medical supervision in hospitals in Nador and Oujda. “Their condition is stable.” The deadliest toll The toll is – by far – the deadliest ever recorded during the many attempts by sub-Saharan migrants to enter Melilla and the other Spanish city of Ceuta. The two enclaves constitute the EU’s only borders with the African continent. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reacted jointly to express “their deepest concerns” and recall the need “in all circumstances to prioritize the safety of migrants and refugees” and “the importance of finding durable solutions for people on the move”. In Morocco, voices were raised on Saturday to demand an investigation. The main human rights organization has called for “the opening of a rapid and transparent investigation” into this unprecedented “tragedy”, according to statements to AFP by Mohamed Amine Abidar, the president of the section of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH) in Nador. Other migrant support NGOs have joined this call, as has the first Moroccan trade union, which also defends migrant workers, the Democratic Labor Organization (ODT). He urged the government “to open an investigation into this tragic tragedy and to do what is necessary in favor of the victims on both sides”, illegals and police. “Disproportionate” response In Spain, an MEP from the radical left party Podemos, an ally of the Socialists in the minority government of Mr. Sánchez, echoed them. “An investigation is necessary to clarify the facts and responsibilities,” claimed in a tweet Idoia Villanueava, head of Podemos for international affairs. Many testimonies highlight the violence on both sides during Friday’s events. “It’s the ‘most violent’ attempt to enter Melilla I’ve ever seen,” said Rachid Nerjjari, a waiter at a cafe opposite the border fence in the Moroccan neighborhood of Barrio Chino. . He said he saw “migrants armed with sticks and iron bars, a first in the region”. The action of the Moroccan security forces also raises many questions. While acknowledging that the onslaught of migrants had been “violent”, Eduardo de Castro, the president (mayor) of Melilla and highest political authority in this autonomous city, thus denounced a “disproportionate response” from Morocco. For Mr. Abidar, of the AMDH, “the main cause of this disaster is the migration policy conducted by the European Union in cooperation with Morocco”. On the spot, calm had returned on Saturday to Nador, a city bordering the Spanish enclave, as well as around the high iron fence which separates Morocco from Melilla. Back to calm And there was no trace of migrants in town. According to Mr. Abidar, of the AMDH, they would have “moved away for fear of being moved by the Moroccan authorities”, generally towards the south of the country. A witness said he saw several buses carrying migrants out of Nador. The situation was also calm on the Spanish side of the fence, according to footage from public broadcaster TVE, which showed workers repairing damage to the fence. This massive attempt to enter one of the two Spanish enclaves is the first since the normalization in March of relations between Madrid and Rabat, after a diplomatic quarrel of almost a year.
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