Cities across Spain gather over the largest mass loss of life the Spanish border has ever seen

Author: Leah Pattem

At least 37 people were killed attempting to cross from Africa to Europe on Friday. Most victims were from Sudan, South Sudan and Chad – countries involved in armed conflicts. If the victims had made it to Spain, they would likely have received international protection. Instead, authorities formed a massive human block locking in those who were falling from the wire fences. They were trapped on a slope by the border fence on the Moroccan side and were crushed to death.

The violence was recorded by photojournalists and the Moroccan Association for Human Rights, which showed Moroccan authorities entering Spain to capture and return people who had successfully crossed over. Officers can also be seen throwing rocks and smoke bombs at the victims, causing stampedes. Videos of perhaps 100 people emerged, lying should-to-shoulder and head-to-toe on the ground – some wounded, some dead. Medics were refused access to treat the wounded, resulting in many more preventable deaths.

Photo © Davidxlacalle
Photo © Alberto Astudillo García
Photo © Gareth Thomas Sewell

Although many sources say that the death toll sits at 37, Moroccan authorities have only officially recognised the death of 23 people in what is being described as a human avalanche. The people who did manage to cross were surrounded by the Spanish authorities, who pushed them back to the Moroccan side in: a hot return. The jump attempt was carried out by some 2,000 people.

Around 500 managed to reach the fences. Just 133 people managed to reach the temporary internment centre for Immigrants (CETI) in the city and have expressed their intention to request asylum. 

Photo © Alberto Astudillo García
Photo © Gareth Thomas Sewell

So far this year, almost a thousand people have managed to cross from Morocco to Melilla by land – more than twice as many as in the same period in 2021. It’s the largest attempt since March last year, when around a thousand people, most of whom were children, tried to swim into Ceuta but were sent back into Morocco in a hot return.

Over the weekend, 21 graves were dug near the Moroccan border, rapidly burying those who lost their lives on Friday without any identification of their bodies, nor a single autopsy to establish if they were beaten to death. Relatives of the thousands making the journey to Spain will not know for weeks or even months to come if it was their father, brother or son who died on Friday.

Photo © Davidxlacalle

On Sunday, cities across Spain gathered in outrage and solidarity over the largest mass loss of life the Spanish border has ever seen. Between lying on the ground exactly as the victims were, the crowd chanted in Spanish:

No human being is illegal!

They’re not dead, they were killed!

Black lives also matter!

The EU: guilty!

Pedro Sanchez responded by saying that the situation had been “resolved”, a disturbing conclusion given the violence and death toll over the weekend.

Photo © Davidxlacalle

Spain makes up just one of the walls of fortress Europe, acting under violent orders from Brussels. The EU is a racist institution and shows no mercy at its door. We must condemn the actions of the Spanish and Moroccan security forces in their massacre of 37 Africans, but this institutional killing spree doesn’t just occur at the borders.

Immigrants in Spain are also locked out of access to health care, education and legal work, while also being routinely chased by the police and thrown into prison for the “crime” of being here. Their lives are in constant danger – Mame Mbaye is the highest profile victim of this but there are many more and there will be more to come.

Photo © Gareth Thomas Sewell

However, the push to regularise undocumented migrants already living here is gaining steam. If you aren’t familiar with the Regularización Ya signature movement, here’s everything you need to know. You have until September 23 to sign!

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