7 February 2014

13 sub-Saharan migrants died on Thursday while trying to cross into the Spanish city of Ceuta on the North-African coast from a beach in neighbouring Morocco.

Several migrants said Spanish Guardia Civil (Spanish policing authorities)shot rubber bullets and threw tear gas at them when they were at sea. The NGO Caminando Fronteras (Walking Borders) told the newspaper El Mundo.”According to the accounts of the survivors we talked to, some migrants might have drowned due to the intervention of the Guardia Civil. Officers have used rubber bullets and tear gas against the migrants. The survivors have made clear that this time it was Spain’s police Guardia Civil confronting them with violence, rather than the Moroccan police as is usually the case”, The Guardia Civil has denied these accusations and said that the migrants were at all times on the Moroccan side of the sea border, reports El País.

Before heading out to sea, between 200 and 400 persons had tried to cross the fence that separates Ceuta and Morocco. Spanish and Moroccan gendarmerie used anti-riot material, including rubber bullets and tear gas, to prevent them from crossing. The use of anti-riot material at this point is confirmed by both migrants and authorities.

A coalition of Spanish NGOs has called for the establishment of a Parliamentary Committee to investigate the circumstances that led to these fatalities and review border control practices in Ceuta and Melilla. The Spanish Minister of Interior recognised earlier this week that pushbacks from these cities can happen in ‘isolated cases’.

The main opposition party PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party) has called on the Minister of Interior, Jorge Fernández Díaz, to address the issue in Parliament. Izquierda Unida has demanded the Minister’s resignation.

This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 07 February 2014
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