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Human rights groups call for probe into death of 23 refugees crossing into Melilla 

June 28, 2022 at 1:08 pm

Flowers are laid on the ground in memory of migrants who died at the Spanish-Moroccan border, 24 June 2022 [Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images]

Human rights organisations are calling for an investigation into the death of 23 people who died during a mass attempt to cross from Morocco into Spain’s Melilla enclave.

Human Rights Watch is among the organisations which has called for an independent, impartial investigation with international experts and monitors.

On Friday morning, roughly 2,000 people attempted to cross the border post after cutting through a fence with many of the deaths being people who fell from the barrier separating the two sides.

The African Union has said it is shocked at the violent and degrading treatment of migrants and is calling for an investigation into the use of excessive force by Spain and Morocco.

“I call for an immediate investigation into the matter and remind all countries of their obligations under international law to treat all migrants with dignity and to prioritise their safety and human rights, while refraining from the use of excessive force,” said AU Commission Chief Moussa Faki Mahamat.

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Footage circulating on Twitter shows Moroccan security forces hitting men with sticks as they lie on the ground:

The Moroccan Association of Human Rights (AMDH) said some of the injured refugees were left lying on the ground for hours without being tended to.

Omar Naji, from AMDH, said the level of violence used by authorities during the attempted crossing was unprecedented.

Yet despite this, Moroccan authorities have started prosecuting 65 migrants they say helped facilitate the crossings.

The 65 people, who are from Sudan, face charges of starting fires, attacking security forces and facilitating illegal border crossings.

The Spanish prime minister described them as “mafias trafficking human beings to a city” and said, “it was an attack on the territorial integrity of our country, in a violent manner.”

Critics have said that a recent warming of relations between Spain and Morocco has led to a stricter crackdown on migrants trying to enter Europe.