Police violence is a daily occurrence in Melilla. Last week, we accompanied two young men to the hospital after they were beaten up, we were told, one by the Guardia Civil, and the other by employees of the private security company Eulen. One of the men required stitches. The other now has trouble sleeping due to the pain in his ribs, caused, according to his testimony, by repeated kicking and beating with a stick. A third person explains that he was beaten up by employees of another private security company contracted in Melilla, Prosegur. These three young people are rightfully very angry and frustrated, and we act in solidarity with them.
Accompanying victims of police violence to the hospital is not only important for the physical health of the person, but in order to obtain a medical certificate that can then be used to file a complaint in court. Two of last week’s victims have now done this, but we fear that delays, difficulties communicating with people who are forced to live on the streets, and the general atmosphere of impunity for members of law enforcement mean that justice is a very long way away.
Violence often occurs in or around the port, where some young people we work with do “risky”, attempting to hide under trucks or climb up the side of the ferry so that they can cross to mainland Spain. The port is heavily policed, by the Guardia Civil, the port’s own police force and private security. Everytime we speak to the young people, they show us injuries from “risky”, cuts from the barbed wire and bruises from the beatings. Even those who speak very little Spanish know the word for “club”.
However, violence can occur at any time and in any place. With a curfew in place in Melilla between 10pm and 6am, young people are more likely to be stopped by police when moving around at night. In any interaction between young undocumented people and the police, there is potential for the police to turn violent, and abuse their power.
We want to highlight that the police violence experienced and witnessed in Melilla is just one part of a European, even global system of violence that disproportionately affects people of colour, and particularly young people on the move. There is no border, either at the entrance to or within Europe, where people on the move do not experience harassment, racial discrimination, abuse and physical violence at the hands of the police. Melilla is just one example.