By Elena Rodriguez and Joan Faus
MADRID/BARCELONA (Reuters) – Protesters wearing white masks and carrying signs reading “massacre” and “Europe responsible” marked the anniversary on Friday of a mass attempt to cross from Morocco into the Spanish enclave of Melilla in which at least 23 migrants and refugees died.
Speakers from the Spanish umbrella rights organisation Caravan of Open Borders told a crowd outside parliament in Madrid that Moroccan and Spanish law enforcement officers had violated basic human rights in responding to the incident, and that not enough had been done to bring those responsible to justice.
“It was a day of pain and rage,” demonstrator Luisa Menendez, 73, told Reuters, referring to June 24, 2022. “A horrible day in the history of humanity.”
In a report released to mark the anniversary, Amnesty International accused Spain and Morocco of a cover-up for failing to properly investigate events at the Melilla border last year.
In the incident, around 2,000 migrants and refugees from sub-Saharan Africa attempted to enter Melilla from Morocco. At least 37 died and at least 76 are still missing, Amnesty said.
Morocco said 23 people died in a crush when migrants fell from the fence, and Spain has said no deaths occurred on its soil.
Amnesty said authorities in Spain and Morocco had made no attempt to repatriate victims’ remains and they had not provided a full list of names and causes of death, as well as CCTV footage which could inform an investigation.
A spokesman for Spain’s Interior Ministry said an investigation by a senior prosecutor had been carried out “with full guarantees and in full depth”.
Authorities in Morocco declined a request for comment.
In her investigation, prosecutor Beatriz Sanchez of the Migration Affairs department declined to charge Spanish officers who she said had been unaware of the fatal crush. Spanish lawmakers rejected calls for a parliamentary inquiry.
Spain’s independent ombudsman said in a report in October that Spain had returned those who jumped the fence without processing their cases.
Separately, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights said last month there is “no genuine and effective access to asylum at the border” between Nador (Morocco) and Melilla.
(Reporting by Joan Faus and Elena Rodriguez; Editing by Alexandra Hudson and Frances Kerry)
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