23 Jun, 2023 @ 15:45
1 min read

Amnesty International puts death toll from June 2022 border fence storming at 37 with 76 migrants still unaccounted for

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

NEARLY A year on from a migrant tragedy at the Spanish border with Morocco at Melilla, Amnesty International has released a new estimate of how many people were killed in the incident. 

According to a statement released by the NGO, 37 people died in the attempt by sub-Saharan Africans to storm the border fence in the North African exclave city, while 76 remain unaccounted for. 

That is considerably higher than the 23 official victims that the Moroccan authorities reported. 

Amnesty accused the Spanish and Moroccan governments of failing to carry out ‘an effective and independent investigation’, something that has left the family members of those who died or disappeared in limbo. 

The attempt to storm the border fence and reach Spanish soil took place on June 24, 2022 at 8.30am when a group of around 2,000 mostly Sudanese men approached the border fence in the so-called Barrio Chino (Chinese neighbourhood) in Melilla. 

According to a subsequent report produced by the ombudsman, 470 of the migrants were directly sent back onto Moroccan soil, ‘without taking into account the national or international legal provisions’, Spanish daily El Pais reported.

Amnesty also denounced violations of ‘international law that were committed on both sides of the border’ related to the attempt to storm the fence, adding that the severity of the incident involves the ‘obligation to investigate all of the actions that occurred there’. 

The NGO based its figures on first-hand accounts from survivors of the incident, who reported that some of the would-be migrants died on a bus that was used to transport them from the border to the south of Morocco. These victims, the witnesses claimed, did not receive ‘any kind of medical assistance despite the severity of their injuries’. 

Videos and images of the aftermath of the border-crossing attempt shocked the world when they emerged last year, with the bodies of the migrants clearly visible on the ground.

The Spanish government defended the actions of the border authorities during the June incident, but a BBC investigation, which examined all of the available videos from the day, found that the Civil Guard watched and did nothing to prevent the deaths of the migrants.

In December, Spain’s public prosecutor shelved a probe into the migrant tragedy, finding that there was no indication that the Spanish authorities committed any offences.

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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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