Author: Leah Pattem
“They didn’t die – they were murdered!” said Serigne Mbaye speaking about Spain’s most violent human tragedy in recent memory.
On 24 June 2022, around 2,000 people attempted to jump the wire fences between Morocco and Melilla. Once physically on Spanish territory, migrants should be processed to see if they qualify for asylum, but, according to witness accounts, Moroccan and Spanish authorities reacted by throwing rocks, deploying tear gas and shooting rubber bullets.
Those decisions are alleged to have caused stampedes that resulted in multiple injuries and deaths.
Within hours, videos emerged of around 100 dust-covered people lying side-by-side on the ground. Border guards are seen beating individuals who are not moving. While some are sitting upright, the majority appear lifeless and have visible wounds to their heads and bodies.
Caminando Fronteras claim NGO medics were refused access to treat the wounded, which resulted in many more deaths.
The following day, at least 21 graves were dug near the Moroccan border. The victims were buried so quickly that not a single body was identified or underwent an autopsy. To explain the circumstances of the deaths, there is only the testimony of witnesses.
Most of the people killed in what is referred to as the Melilla Massacre were from Sudan, South Sudan and Chad, all countries in which armed conflicts are taking place. Had they made it to Spain, they would have been entitled to international protection. Instead, they met their deaths thousands of miles from home while trying to reach that safety.
As of today, 70 people are still missing, 22 remain in the Nador morgue and at least 37 were killed. Even though the Guardia Civil claimed to have had blood-soaked uniforms during the incident, none of them were harmed. Families are still searching for their lost relatives.
This weekend, there were two days of protests across Spain and its territories. Here are some images from Madrid, which include some of Spain’s most important human rights activists and survivors of the EU border regime.
A bus of activists from Caravana Abriendo Fronteras set off on their way to Melilla for the one-year anniversary of the Melilla Massacre.
The bus is full of some of the most important and significant human rights activists in Spain: members of SOS Racismo, Caminando Fronters, Regularización Ya, and María Herrera Magdaleno who has four sons who disappeared in Mexico. They’re printed on the chest of her t-shirt.
María founded a network of local collectives to educate families on how to investigate disappearances, which has become crucial in Spain’s dealing with EU border deaths and disappearances.
Also speaking at the protest this morning was 18-year-old Usman, whose unaccompanied journey from Mali to Spain began when he was just 15. He arrived just six weeks ago. This was his first media experience.
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