NEITHER FORGIVENESS NOR REPARATION

A brief reflection by Solidary Wheels volunteers in Melilla


One month after the massacre that took place on the 24th of June 2022, at the fence between Nador and Melilla, there has still been no reparation for the victims and their families, no clarification of the facts, and no accountability. Not even a few heartfelt words were spoken from the most democratically progressive president in Spanish history, denouncing the fact that more than 30 people lost their lives in this bloody action, coordinated between Spain and Morocco, to stop the entry of asylum seekers into Melilla.


One month after the massacre, we still do not know the true extent of the brutality exercised at the Melilla border on the 24th of June. No further explanations have been given by the executive, and the investigations initiated by the Attorney General's Office and the Ombudsman's Office have yet to provide more information on what happened. On the Moroccan side, there has also been a generalised silence until 13 July, when the president of the Moroccan National Human Rights Council (CNDH) condemned the Spanish authorities for failing to help the migrants who died in the attempt to jump the fence.



There have been several instances from which the clarification of the facts has been requested. An example of this is Dunja Mijatović, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, who, on 13 July, requested information from the Minister of the Interior, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, regarding the role played by the Spanish security forces. More specifically, that there are already two investigations underway in this regard (the two mentioned above). Likewise, five experts from the United Nations' International Mechanism of Independent Experts (MIEI) asked both the Moroccan and Spanish governments for accountability and detailed information on the incident, especially on the investigations underway.


Likewise, multiple social and humanitarian organisations have mobilised to denounce what happened, launching communiqués and organising public demonstrations to make visible their disagreement with the violations of rights that occurred not only on the 24th of June, but every day at the Southern Border: denouncing the border architecture, the migratory business between Spain and Morocco and the externalisation of the Spanish and European border that puts the lives of migrants and applicants for international protection at risk. Thus, on Monday 25th of July, a letter was sent to the President of the Spanish Government and to different parliamentarians, on behalf of the 1,084 collectives and 5,975 citizens who signed the unified communiqué, to demand that they promote and support the commission of enquiry in Congress.



Today, 29th of July, we still have no answers, no accountability, no forgiveness and no reparation. However, despite the Moroccan authorities' tactics of silencing activists and journalists, the work of various human rights organisations has allowed us to shed some light on the facts. According to data published by AMDH, at least 64 people of Sudanese origin are still missing (Annex I [1]) and, in its latest report published on the matter, it highlights that the action carried out by the Moroccan authorities, with the support and consent of Spain, put the lives of the people at risk, and that there may even have been more than 40 deaths [2], a figure that the association Walking Borders confirms, through different testimonies.


The massacre of the 24th of June began to take shape long before that day. As has already been exposed in multiple press releases and media, the violence exercised by the Moroccan authorities increased exponentially in the days prior to the attempted jump with continuous raids and forced displacements. This fact is strictly related to the improvement of relations between Spain and Morocco.


For years, Spain and Morocco have maintained a tense and calm relationship. This tension has increased as of lately as the so-called "Fortress Europe" has been externalising its borders, giving Morocco a leading role in controlling them. With Spain's entry into NATO in 1982 and the EU in 1986, the first patera arrived on the coast of Cádiz in 1988; with the signing of the Barcelona Process in 1995, the Ceuta Fence (1996) and the Melilla Fence (1998) were built; with Morocco's promotion to the status of main non-NATO ally in 2004, the height of the Melilla fence was increased in 2005.



There have been many agreements between the two countries that have had a direct impact on both border architecture and the control and treatment of border crossings, and none of them include guarantees of respect for human rights. The closest example was the treaty that Spain and Morocco signed at the end of March this year to reinforce cooperation in the area of migration (with the installation of so-called "combs" on top of the last fence to make it even more difficult for people to jump, among other things).


The consequences of the latter treaty are clear when comparing the nature and treatment of the March attempts of jumping the border and this latest one in June. As AMDH reports, in the first months of the year, with relations between Spain and Morocco still strained by the diplomatic crisis between the two countries throughout the year 2021, there were hardly any attacks on the settlements of Mount Gurugú and several attempted jumps; however, following the restoration of friendly relations between the two executives in mid-March, and especially in the months of April, May and June, attacks increased and attempted jumps decreased. In fact, in just three months, 31 attacks were carried out in the area, equivalent to the number of attacks in the whole of last year.


Focusing more on the nature of the March and June jumps, we see that during the freezing of relations, in the March jump, more than 2,500 migrants participated and no deaths have been confirmed (although some witnesses who managed to reach Melilla believe that there may have been deaths in this jump as well), the number of wounded was lower and 900 people managed to enter the Autonomous City (Melila) despite the violence exercised by the Moroccan and Spanish authorities. In contrast, in this last jump, with the geopolitical climate calmer, dozens of deaths and injuries have been documented, and only 133 people managed to enter in Melilla[3]. Is this purely coincidental?


Moreover, as has already been stated in previous communiqués, this latest massacre occurred a few days before the NATO summit held in Madrid on 28 June (another coincidence?), where, far from the Spanish authorities' self-criticism of the situation and their actions, what happened was used as an argument in favour of continuing to militarise, control and close the southern European border even further.


As a result of this latest jump, the multiple human rights violations suffered by migrants and applicants for international protection have once again become evident. Survivors of the massacre shared at one of the rallies in Melilla that many of the people who tried to jump the fence had already expressed their intention to apply for asylum at the UNHCR offices in Morocco, and, even so, some of them were illegally returned to their countries of origin. The document issued by UNHCR in reference to their asylum application is a useless paper in Morocco, it ends up being confiscated or destroyed and does not protect them in any way. The neighbouring country denies them the right to housing (even prohibiting them from renting a house on Moroccan territory), to physical integrity and to life. Meanwhile, Spain sways in the direction of congratulating and supporting their acts.


Likewise, the 133 people who managed to reach Melilla and entered the CETI (Temporary Stay Centre for Immigrants) were illegally detained for up to six days after their arrival (from Friday to Wednesday). This isolation was based on an alleged COVID-19 quarantine, even though they had all been tested for antigens with negative results, thus violating their right to freedom of movement and expression, preventing contact with the outside world and the possibility of mourning for their murdered comrades. This quarantine was applied arbitrarily and rigorously to the detriment of people's rights; they could not leave to denounce what had happened or to call their families, but they could go to the police station and, in some cases, receive proposals for their return. All of them applied for asylum and in the end the asylum procedure for territory was applied to them and not the border procedure, as was done for the people who arrived in March.



On the other hand, AMDH clearly exposes in its latest report that this jump is a result of the normalisation of relations between the two governments and has resulted in dozens of dead and injured due to the particular actions of the Moroccan and Spanish forces: they did not disperse the people who descended from the mountain until the moment they reached the fence and subsequently rounded them up to make it impossible for them to return to the mountain, in addition to the exceptional and deadly use of tear gas and rubber bullets in a closed area. The repressive intervention on the Spanish side was undoubtedly behind the increase in the number of suffocated victims and clearly shows the level of local coordination between the two countries: Moroccan tear gas was mixed with Spanish tear gas fired in two opposite directions to cause maximum damage and more victims. In addition, there was a total omission of the duty to provide aid, as priority was given to transporting corpses rather than wounded people who could have survived if they had been properly treated. For almost nine hours, no assistance was provided to the wounded by either the Moroccans or the Spaniards, who had several ambulances a few metres away, thus showing the true face of Moroccan-Spanish migration policies and cooperation, centred exclusively on security. [4]


After what happened, the President of the Government, Pedro Sanchez, praised the work and cooperation between the authorities to deal with the "violent assault", a qualifier that he felt it necessary to emphasise on multiple occasions. It was not until days later, and after several similar statements criminalising the victims of this massacre, when asked about his reaction and the data on the deaths already made official by Morocco, he justified his words by saying he was unaware of the deaths caused during the jump. Statements that are far from the Pedro Sanchez of 2018 who defended the right to legal and safe channels for migration (before he was part of the executive), these words are something that could have been perfectly expected from a far-right party such as Vox.


On the other hand, the government partners have posted individual complaints. An example of this is Serigne Mbaye, head of Anti-racism at Podemos and deputy of Unidas Podemos in the Madrid Assembly, who denounced from the outset the "sadness, anger and indignation" he feels that "the violent logic of the EU is once again justifying the deaths at the Melilla fences as if some deserve to live and others to die".


The latest information on the situation of the more than 60 survivors of the massacre who were arrested on the other side of the fence is that a court in Nador has sentenced 33 of them to 11 months in prison. Some of the detained were charged with alleged crimes of disobedience, destruction of property, possession of bladed weapons, assault, injury with a weapon, and others with forming a criminal gang, kidnapping and arson. Finally, this group of 33 people, mainly of Sudanese origin, were sentenced to pay a fine and compensation for "facilitating and organising the clandestine entry and exit of foreigners to and from Morocco, armed agglomeration on the public highway and insulting public officials"; without evidence and without any guarantee of their status as asylum seekers.


24 June was neither an exception to current migration policies, nor an unavoidable natural tragedy. 24 June, like each and every one of the deaths that occurred at the southern border, is a direct consequence of European and Spanish political decisions, and as such, has those responsible. We demand accountability, information on ongoing investigations and reparation for the families of the victims.


These are decisions, not coincidences; there are no coincidences in politics.



 

[1] ANNEX I. Names of the 64 people missing in the 24 June jumping attempt

Qusai Ismail Abdel Qader (Sudán), Marwan Mohiuddin (Sudán), Muhammad Abdullah Abdul Rahman (Sudán), Jalal Abdul Shakour (Sudán), Mustafa abkar yahya (Sudán), Muhammad Yaghioub Abdel Rasoul (Sudán), Muhannad Mamoun Issa (Sudán), Abdullah Omar (Sudán), Mustafa Aber (Sudán), Al-zubair Mursal (Sudán), Ibrahim Othman (Sudán), Adel Youssef (Sudán), Pararse en Ali (Sudán), Ahmed Al Mahdi (Sudán), Bakri Saleh (Sudán), Khaled Abkar (Sudán), Ahmed Al-Hajj (Sudán), Muhammad Haroun (Sudán), Nabil Abkar (Sudán), Ahmad Adam (Sudán), Ibrahim Sedik (Sudán), Yasser Elias (Sudán), Ahmed Al-Tom (Sudán), Ibrahim Al-Tijani (Sudán), Saleh Kamal (Sudán), Core William, alias Jedou o Gedo (Sudán del Sur), Adel Abdul Rahman (Sudán), Tariq Ibrahim (Sudán), Abdul Razzaq Ibrahim (Sudán), Yousef Abdullah (Sudán), Othman Abdul Rahim (Sudán), Saddam Ahmed (Sudán), Hassan Youssef (Sudán), Abazar Salah (Sudán del Sur), Abdullah Omar (Sudán), Ibrahim Mohamed (Sudán), Omar Ahmed (Sudán), Farouk Saleh (Sudán), Abdulaziz Mohammed (Sudán), Mohamed Salah (Sudán), Ahmed Muhammadin Ahmed (Sudán), Moatasem Adam Abdel-Bashir (Sudán), Jalal Abdul Shakour Yahya (Sudán), Mohamed Wad Angeli (Sudán), Isaac Issa (Sudán), Ibrahim Ali Muhammad (Sudán), Mahdi Muhammad (Sudán), Imam de herencia (Sudán), Abdullah Omar (Sudán), Bagdad Hussein (Sudán), Wali al -din Muhammad Ali (Sudán), Abdul Basit Muhammad Ishaq (Sudán), Nasruddin Abkar Khamis (Sudán), Abdul Rahim Abdul Latif Ali Ibrahim, apodado 'Haneen' (Nostalgia) (Sudán), Ahmed Babiker Mohammed (Sudán) (visto por última vez en el hospital de Nador), Bechara Ibrahim Idris (Sudán), Mazen Daffa Allah (Sudán), Adam Khamis Ahmed (Sudán), Hamed Youssef (Sudán), Abu Bakr Hussein (Sudán), Ibrahim Al-Helou (Sudán), Suleiman Abkar Haroun (Sudán), Adam Mustafa Harin (Sudán), Abdel Aziz Yaqoub, apodado 'Anwar' (Sudán) (tres testimonios confirman su muerte).


[2] La tragédie au poste frontalier de Bario Chino”, Association Marocaine des Droits Humains - Section Nador, 20/07/2022.


[3]La tragedie au poste frontalier de Bario Chino”, Association Marocaine des Droits Humains - Section Nador, 20/07/2022: pg.9


[4]La tragedie au poste frontalier de Bario Chino”, Association Marocaine des Droits Humains - Section Nador, 20/07/2022.


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