2nd Oct 2023

Spain denies any responsibility in Melilla migrant deaths

Listen to article

The Spanish government denies any responsibility over the deaths of some 23 people who attempted to cross from Morocco into its north African Melilla enclave last summer.

Spanish interior minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska told MEPs on Wednesday (22 March) that the over 1,700 who attempted to enter Melilla in June of last year did so through force and violence.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"They were using a sticks and stones to attack the Moroccan and Spanish forces," he said.

But a subsequent investigation by the BBC said migrants use sticks to help them scale the three fences that separate Morocco from Melilla.

The investigation also found that lifeless bodies had been dragged by Moroccan police from areas that were Spanish controlled.

Some had been fired at by Spanish police with rubber bullets and gas while attempting to scale the fences, one migrant told the BBC.

Although the figure is likely higher, at least 23 were confirmed dead by the Moroccan forces.

Grande-Marlaska insisted that no deaths took place on Spanish soil and said the BBC had since "rectified its report".

He said Spain's public prosecutor drew the same conclusion after a nine-month investigation.

"This was a tragedy that should never have happened," he said, noting that 134 managed to cross and claim asylum.

But Amnesty International, in a 66-page report published last December, sheds doubt on Grande-Marlaska's version of events.

They said that the methods used by Moroccan and Spanish authorities at the "Barrio Chino" border contributed to the deaths of at least 37 people.

Others who were injured had been left unattended in the full glare of the sun for eight hours without any basic medical assistance.

"Spanish authorities did not assist in any way the injured people who were left on the ground in Spanish territory after the police operation ended," says the report. Another 77 people remain missing and are unaccounted for.

The NGO also says Moroccan security forces had violently raided informal camps near the enclave in the lead up to the attempted crossing.

Months later, the Spanish state granted Morocco another €30m to help Rabat stem irregular migration and human trafficking.

For its part, the European Commission is pouring large amounts of money into Morocco.

Earlier this month, EU commission Olivér Várhelyi, signed a €624m package with Rabat. Of that, some €152m is for migration.

The commission had also launched an anti-smuggling operational partnership with Morocco last July, shortly after 23 people died trying to enter Melilla.

Spain accused of Melilla migrant death cover up

Spanish authorities are being accused of a cover up over the deaths of dozens of refugees at its Melilla enclave with Morocco. Some 23 were confirmed dead and another 77 remain missing after around 1,500 tried to enter the enclave.

EU defends Spain, after thousands enter Ceuta enclave

Spain has warned of a "serious crisis" for Europe after some 6,000 people entered Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in northern Morocco. The European Commission has voiced its support for Spain as diplomatic tensions with Rabat heat up.


One year after the massacre in Melilla, nothing has changed

On 24 June 2022, a massacre took place at the border between the Spanish enclave of Melilla. At least 40 people died, 80 disappeared, several dozens were injured and almost 500 were displaced and deported. But what has happened since?

Spain's PM Sánchez travels to Kyiv to begin EU presidency

Spain will assume the six-month rotating presidency of the EU Council from Sweden this weekend — with PM Pedro Sanchez immediately travelling to Kyiv to express its support for Ukraine. But a July election in Spain may complicate matters.

EU Ombudsman warns of 'new normal' of crisis decision-making

Emily O'Reilly cited the post-pandemic recovery funds, the windfall taxes on energy companies, and the joint purchase of vaccines, as procedures which received limited scrutiny from the national parliaments — as a result of emergency decision-making powers that bypassed parliament.

Latest News

  1. EU women promised new dawn under anti-violence pact
  2. Three steps EU can take to halt Azerbaijan's mafia-style bullying
  3. Punish Belarus too for aiding Putin's Ukraine war
  4. Added-value for Russia diamond ban, as G7 and EU prepare sanctions
  5. EU states to agree on asylum crisis bill, say EU officials
  6. Poland's culture of fear after three years of abortion 'ban'
  7. Time for a reset: EU regional funding needs overhauling
  8. Germany tightens police checks on Czech and Polish border

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  2. International Medical Devices Regulators Forum (IMDRF)Join regulators, industry & healthcare experts at the 24th IMDRF session, September 25-26, Berlin. Register by 20 Sept to join in person or online.
  3. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  4. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA
  5. International Medical Devices Regulators Forum (IMDRF)Join regulators & industry experts at the 24th IMDRF session- Berlin September 25-26. Register early for discounted hotel rates
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal interest in the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations – here are the speakers for the launch

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us