Death toll rises to 23 in Melilla border-crossing stampede

EuroActiv Politico News

The death toll during a migrant incursion into the Spanish enclave of Melilla has risen to 23, Moroccan authorities said.

About 2,000 people tried crossing the Moroccan-Spanish border on Friday and about 500 succeeded after cutting a fence, according to AFP and other media. In addition to the 23 deaths, 76 people were injured. About 140 Moroccan and 49 Spanish security personnel were also injured, according to media reports.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez called the incursion a “violent assault” on the Melilla border fence.

The security staff in the enclave, some of whom were injured during the incident, were “defending the national sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Spain,” Sánchez said on Saturday. He said the assault was the work of “mafias who traffic in human beings.”

Moroccan human rights associations blamed the Spanish-Moroccan migration agreement for the casualties.

The deaths and the injured are a tragic symbol of the European policies to externalize the EU’s border, with the complicity of a Southern country, Morocco,” they said in an open letter.

The European Commission did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, said it was profoundly saddened and concerned at the loss of life and injuries. It urged all authorities to “prioritize the safety of migrants and refugees, refrain from the excessive use of force and uphold their human rights.”