“When we arrived, the Moroccan police began to fire tear gas and we all started running towards the border gate,” explains one of the migrants who experienced the tragedy.
The Moroccan prosecutor’s office has charged 28 of adult migrants and one minor arrested last Friday in the attempt to cross to Melilla to whom criminal proceedings have been opened for illegal human trafficking, violence against security forces and kidnapping of a Moroccan agent, among other crimes, as confirmed by the defense attorney. The migrants have denied all these accusations. Moroccan justice has decreed provisional detention for all and has set the trial for July 13. The detainees have been this Monday more than six hours in the Court of Appeal of Nador, before leaving in two vans towards the jail.
One of the accused has explained that the day of the tragedy began at 6 am. About a thousand people left a mountainous area, close to the fence, towards the autonomous city. It was two hours of walking and running, he has recounted. “When we arrived, the Moroccan police started firing tear gas and everyone we started running towards the border gate & rdquor;. She explains that a few minutes later she lost consciousness and “I didn’t see anything else & rdquor ;, she concludes.
At the time of the jump attempt, he explains, hundreds of migrants were accumulated in the mousetrap which became the corridor between the Moroccan and Spanish border. This young man had arrived in Morocco half a year ago after leaving Sudan, his native country, and crossing the entire Maghreb until he reached the Moroccan city of Oujda. Five days before the jump attempt he had traveled to Nador and waited hidden in one of the forests that surround Melilla along with other compatriots and migrants from West Africa.
“Normally, migrants try to jump over the fence, they do not usually enter through this border gate in Barrio Chino & rdquor ;, says a source on the ground who prefers that his identity not be revealed. This access between Morocco and Spain was closed since the start of the pandemic. The most dramatic moments were experienced there and at least 23 migrants died, according to the authorities, although the NGOs consider that at least 37 lost their lives on the fence. A figure that humanitarian organizations consider is not definitive: “We will never know exactly how many died & rdquor ;, they point out.
This Sudanese testimony explains that the group he was with had no intention of attacking the agents, he says that they used stones and sticks to try to scare them. The result was violent clashes and more than a hundred wounded. “It is the first time that migrants attack the border in this violent way, we see that it is because of all the violence and the violation of human rights, of migrants and asylum seekers during these last months & rdquor ;, he explains. Amine Abidar, president of the Moroccan Organization for Human Rights in Nador. “It is because of this migratory policy of Spain and Morocco that we have reached this critical situation & rdquor ;, he regrets.
“The gendarme of Europe & rdquor;
“Morocco plays a role of gendarme for Europe. It is applying the violence and the policy against the human rights of Spain and the European Union & rdquor ;, regrets the person in charge of this organization. “For two weeks the police had carried out daily raids and arrested people & rdquor ;, declares the same source on the ground. “The pressure was very great and this caused the migrants to decide to try to cross to Melilla & rdquor ;, he defends. These raids have caused fear in many sub-Saharans, especially since the jump attempt. Several organizations point out that a large part of the migrants have tried to leave the city or are still in hiding for fear of new arrests.
“It is the most difficult situation in the history of migration in Nador & rdquor ;, considers Abidar. He explains that everything is “very sad and exhausting & rdquor ;, he recounts that he has been glued to the phone for three days and with a lot of stress: “We are going to do what is necessary to defend human rights & rdquor ;. This human rights organization is the one that has published most of the videos on networks showing the dozens of people, some lifeless, scattered on the asphalt a few meters from the Spanish fence of Melilla. It is also the one that warned on Sunday that the authorities had opened twenty graves in the city cemetery with the intention of burying the victims.
The African Union calls for an investigation
The bodies of the deceased migrants remain in the morgue of the Nador hospital and for now they have not been buried. The corpses have been accumulating in this deposit for three days. It does not have refrigeration systems and several sources point out that the smell is unbearable. So far the authorities have not clarified if an autopsy has been performed or if an investigation is going to be opened.
To the requests of dozens of NGOs to clarify the reason for his death and investigate the facts, the African Union (AU) has also joined. Moussa Faki Mahamat, president of the Commission of this organization, has expressed his “shock and concern” for what he defines as “violent and degrading treatment of African migrants.” “I ask for an immediate investigation into this matter & rdquor ;, said the person in charge, according to a statement from the UA.