On 24 June 2022, between 1,500-2,000 migrants who had been camping in the mountains surrounding Melilla, descended to the city’s border, hoping to get through the border fences and enter Spanish territory. Many of the migrants were crushed between the fence and Moroccan border guards, who used tear gas and batons on the migrants. Moroccan authorities reported that 23 migrants and two police officers were killed, but local NGOs have reported a migrant death toll of 37. The 133 migrants who reached Melilla were being housed in the city’s migrant temporary stay centre, while their legal status was examined.
A young man from Sudan who reached Melilla told elDiario.es: “The Moroccan police beat us and killed our friends and I don’t understand why.” Another Sudanese man said: “The Morrocans hit me a lot. The repression was very heavy. It’s never been like that before.” 36 survivors left on the Moroccan side have been arrested and face charges of joining a human-trafficking gang, violence against law enforcement, detention of a public official as well as purposefully burning the forest of Gorogo in Nador, which killed a woman and her two children. Their lawyer told AFP that the majority of the defendants were from Darfur, in western Sudan.
The African Union denounced the “violent and degrading treatment of African migrants seeking to cross an international border between Morocco and Spain” and called for an immediate investigation into the matter. The UN Committee on Migrant Workers urged the “Moroccan and the Spanish Governments to conduct prompt, thorough, independent, impartial and transparent investigations into these deaths and to determine the corresponding responsibilities.” The Committee also said that “detention is an exceptional measure of last resort that, if used, must be compatible with the criteria of responsibility, necessity and proportionality, as recalled in the Committee’s General Comment No. 5 (2021) on migrants’ right to liberty, freedom from arbitrary detention and their intersection with other human rights.”
The UN Security Council also discussed the tragedy, although they failed to reach an agreement. According to Morocco World News, Kenya published a draft statement condemning the suffering of African migrants along the Mediterranean coast and urging Morocco and Spain to undertake an investigation. However, this statement was reportedly not made public due to a lack of unanimity required for its release. Kenya’s Deputy UN Ambassador to the United Nations, referring to the Ukrainian crisis, said that “the Security Council and its members are very concerned about the fate of refugees from other conflicts. We believe that Africans fleeing wars and insecurity in their countries deserve the same respect.”
- J. Pascual, “Melilla Tragedy: Morocco Was Ready to do Anything to Stop Migrants,” Le Monde, 2 July 2022, https://www.lemonde.fr/en/le-monde-africa/article/2022/07/02/melilla-tragedy-morocco-was-ready-to-do-anything-to-stop-migrants_5988784_124.html
- AfricaNews, “Morocco: AU and UN Call for Investigation into Melilla Tragedy,” 28 June 2022, https://www.africanews.com/2022/06/28/morocco-au-and-un-call-for-investigation-into-melilla-tragedy//
- A. Kassam, “A Bloodbath: Refugees Reel from Deadly Melilla Mass Crossing,” The Guardian, 30 June 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jun/30/a-bloodbath-refugees-reel-from-deadly-melilla-mass-crossing
- A. Benazizi, “Melilla Tragedy Splits UN Security Council,” Morocco World News, 30 June 2022, https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2022/06/350006/melilla-tragedy-splits-un-security-council
- B. El Atti, “Melilla Tragedy; 36 Migrants Survivors Face Charges at Moroccan Court,” The New Arab, 29 June 2022, https://english.alaraby.co.uk/news/survivors-melilla-tragedy-face-moroccan-court
- G. Hedgecoe, “Melilla Migrant Deaths Spark Anger in Spain,” BBC News, 27 June 2022, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-61956104
- Asharq Al-Awsat, “UN Security Council Divided in Addressing Melilla Incidents,” 1 July 2022, https://english.aawsat.com/home/article/3734821/un-security-council-divided-addressing-melilla-incidents
- Migrants Attempting to Cross the Border with Melilla City (AP, “UN Security Council Divided in Addressing Melilla Incidents,” 1 July 2022, https://english.aawsat.com/home/article/3734821/un-security-council-divided-addressing-melilla-incidents)