Up to 40 people died in the attempted jump over the Melilla fence on June 24, according to the latest report from the NGO Walking Borders. The official count of victims counted 23 deceased and previously this NGO specialized in the region had estimated the number of dead at 37.
Bullets that were not bullets and lack of explanations: the deaths in Melilla, in the debate on the state of the nation
The organization dedicated to the rights of migrants says that the agreement between Spain and Morocco has caused “terrible damage” and that violence against migrants has increased since the reestablishment of relations with Rabat. In the last six months, the agreement between Spain and Morocco has meant “repression” in exchange for recognition of “territorial interests” (in reference to the Sahara) and economic endowments.
“I have gone to the border a few times but they have never done something with such violence, the previous times had been very hard. It was a catastrophe, it was as if they had everything prepared, they made us go forward and when we got ahead, then they came from behind. We were surrounded”, says a witness among the testimonies collected by the organization.
According to data from Caminando Fronteras, 978 people lost their lives in the first six months of the year on access routes to Spain, 41 of them minors. The deadliest month was January with 306 deaths and disappearances, followed by June with 290. And the route that concentrates the most victims is the Canary Islands, 800 in total.
The report published this Wednesday by the NGO, which analyzes the first half of 2022, indicates that, before the tragedy of June 24, since May the settlements in the Moroccan forest near Melilla had become a “space of war” . The organization denounces that the military incursions were repeated two or three times a week, “using more and more aggressive strategies and employing more war materials that increased the damage that was produced during the raids.”
According to the testimonies compiled by the NGO, the interventions of the security forces lasted hours, appearing at dawn in the camps where the migrants lived. The result behind them was “a burned field, an area that was totally devastated,” according to the report, and the migrants lost their few material belongings, in addition to suffering a deterioration of their physical and mental health.
“We lost everything, even clothes, shoes and the same thing was repeated all the time. After two months in that situation there was nothing more to lose because they had even stripped us of our health. But we never lost hope of getting out of this situation because for us it is not possible to go back”, says one of the victims interviewed.
Days before the tragedy
The situation became “increasingly unsustainable” between the end of May and the beginning of June, according to Caminando Fronteras: on the Monday before June 24, some 500 military troops surrounded the refugee settlement and gassed it, leaving dozens of wounded, and the day before, on June 23, a fire broke out in the forest during another raid. According to the organization “that day there was a very clear message: they had 24 hours to vacate the place or the violence would increase in the next raid.”
Thus, on the 24th, some 1,800 people established in that settlement decided to head towards the Melilla fence in the Beni Enzarlas area, to the east of the fence. “This time they had no hooks or ladders to climb the fence, it was a man for himself,” says the report, adding that the military had again started another raid at dawn and were chasing them.
“Not all [las personas] they carried sticks, some, like me, only the legs to run. But I understand that after this time maybe a stick can save your life. I think we were aware that they would kill us, we had felt that they would exceed that limit during the week, that we were no longer safe anywhere. To die or to live because there was no other way out”, says a witness.
After the arrival of the first group at the fence, the soldiers made a fence from behind and those who had not managed to reach the other side were surrounded, says the report. “They were trapped, people fell to the ground one on top of the other but they were not helped,” says the NGO, which denounces that no form of coordinated aid was deployed between Spain and Morocco for the people who were right on the border suffering the effects of a plug and stampede. According to his description, the Moroccan forces passed over the fallen bodies on the ground with their boots and those who could no longer move were dragged and abandoned in the sun without assessing the dimension of the wounds. If they moved they were beaten until they stopped moving.
Corpses and wounded in the same ambulance
After the attempt to jump over the Melilla fence, the NGO traveled to treat the wounded in what they describe as a “humanitarian crisis”: 80% of the people treated suffered injuries “of varying severity and consideration” and most They had been caused by blows and violence, such as fractures in the legs, arms and head. The organization denounces that social organizations and family members were not allowed to enter the hospitals in the days that followed, “which caused the humanitarian emergency situation to worsen.” The NGO mentions the case that the delay of an operation due to lack of material caused the amputation of one of the feet of a person who suffered fractures caused by the attack by the military during the attempt to jump over the fence.
“The auxiliary forces have hit me with the baton, they called me dirty black. They trampled on me with their boots and there I noticed that my bones were breaking. I have seen the bodies of the dead, there were about 30”, says one of the victims, in a testimony included in the report. “They have called the ambulance to transfer us, there they have also put the corpses in the same ambulance. We have arrived at the hospital and they have left us all on the ground, dead and wounded. My friend spent four days in a coma, then woke up. He received a bullet in the head. The military have killed us, I have seen it with my own eyes. I am alive, God wanted me to live, but I have lost five of my friends. I saw them die with my own eyes.”