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Spain cooperates “extensively” with migrant death probes

#Spain #cooperates #extensively #migrant #death #probes

Madrid will offer “full cooperation” with the Spanish and Moroccan investigation into the deaths of 23 migrants in a mass attempt to enter the Spanish enclave of Melilla, Pedro Sanchez said on Wednesday.

The Spanish Prime Minister’s comments came a day after the United Nations denounced the authorities at the Morocco-Spain border for using “excessive force” and called them “unacceptable”.

The tragedy happened at dawn on Friday when around 2,000 migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, attempted to breach the fence from Morocco to Melilla, one of Spain’s two tiny North African enclaves.

“I regret the loss of life and express my solidarity with the families of the migrants killed,” Sanchez told Radio Cadena Ser, promising his government will work with investigators to understand what happened.

Sanchez stressed that three investigations had been opened, one by Moroccan prosecutors, one by the Spanish Public Prosecutor’s Office and a third by the Spanish Ombudsman for Rights.

“We must trust these institutions and I promise the government’s full cooperation in its efforts to clarify what happened,” he said.

Moroccan authorities said some of the victims fell trying to climb over the fence, which initially claimed 18 lives but later rose to 23 after another five migrants died from their injuries.

Few details about the incident were available, but Spanish media showed footage of people on the ground, some with bloodied hands and torn clothes.

The death toll was by far the worst in years from attempts by migrants to enter the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, which share the EU’s only land borders with Africa, making them a magnet for those desperate to cope with the crushing poverty and to escape hunger.

In Morocco, prosecutors are charging 65 migrants, mostly Sudanese, for trying to storm the border, a defense lawyer in Rabat said.

The Spanish public prosecutor’s office launched its own investigation on Tuesday “to clarify what happened” and referred to the “seriousness and gravity” of the incident.

– ‘Excessive Power’ –

Images of the violence sparked an unusually strong response from the United Nations, which cracked down on border officials.

“We have seen the use of excessive force by the authorities, which needs to be investigated because it is unacceptable,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Tuesday.

“People on the move have human rights and these need to be respected and we see them flouted all too often. We saw it on both sides of the border,” he added.

Sanchez on Friday blamed “human trafficking mafias” for a “well-organized violent attack” and defended the actions of border police, saying the incident was “handled well by the security forces of both Spain and Morocco.” .

When asked about his initial defense of the security forces’ actions, Sanchez said when he spoke he was unaware of “the reports and pictures” of the victims.

And on Wednesday he reiterated his concern for border guards, giving a figure of 40 injured Spanish police officers and 100 on the Moroccan side.

“I also ask that we put ourselves in the shoes of the injured police and security forces, both in Morocco and in Ceuta and Melilla, who have the right to an orderly flow of migrants and are not at the mercy of violent attacks,” he said said.

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