7 Nov, 2022 @ 19:30
1 min read

Civil Guard admits using scores of gas canisters during Melilla migrant tragedy that left 23 dead

Melilla migrant deaths
A screenshot of one of the videos from the attempt to rush the Melilla border in June 2022.

THE SPANISH Civil Guard has admitted that it used a huge amount of riot material, such as tear gas, during the migrant tragedy in Melilla on June 24, which saw at least 23 people killed with scores more unaccounted for.

The police force made the admission during a visit on Monday to the border post where the incident took place by a group of Spanish lawmakers, who are collecting more information about what happened in the wake of a BBC documentary broadcast last week that questions the official version of events

The Civil Guard reported having fired 86 tear gas canisters, 28 gas canisters and 65 rubber bullets, according to a report in Spanish daily El País. They also used 41 large tear gas sprays and 12 other sprays. A total of 270 blanks were fired, in a bid to dissuade the migrants from trying to storm the border fence. 

Thousands of would-be migrants tried to storm the border fence at Melilla, a North African exclave city that belongs to Spain. After they breached the fence, many of the migrants became trapped in a crush at the border post. 

Witness accounts of the tragedy reported that some of the migrants were suffocated by the gas used by the authorities, while others were killed in the crush caused as they tried to escape the gas canisters fired at them. 

Videos and images of the bodies of the migrants shared by a Moroccan human rights NGO, among other sources, shocked the world in the days after the tragedy. 

The Spanish government has defended the actions of the authorities during the June incident, but the BBC investigation, which examined the available videos from the day, found that the Civil Guard watched and did nothing to prevent the deaths of the migrants. The documentary also focused on a fragment of video in which one of the bodies appears to be dragged from the Spanish side of the border to the Moroccan side. 

The documentary prompted calls last week from opposition parties for a proper investigation, as well as the junior partner in the Socialist Party-led coalition government, leftist Unidas Podemos. 

In response, the Interior Ministry permitted the lawmakers to visit the area today and examine the security videos from that day, including footage from a drone and a helicopter that were on the scene. 

After the visit today, Jon Inarritu, a deputy from the Basque EH Bildu party, stated that “without a doubt, the principal incidents took place on Spanish territory.” This is something that the Interior Ministry has repeatedly denied.

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Simon Hunter

Simon Hunter has been living in Madrid since the year 2000 and has worked as a journalist and translator practically since he arrived. For 16 years he was at the English Edition of Spanish daily EL PAÍS, editing the site from 2014 to 2022, and is currently one of the Spain reporters at The Times. He is also a voice actor, and can be heard telling passengers to "mind the gap" on Spain's AVLO high-speed trains.

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