8th February 2023
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Spanish government under fire after BBC report on migrant deaths at border

Spain’s left-leaning coalition government has come under fire after the BBC broadcast a damning report into mass migrants attempting to enter Spain’s Melilla enclave from Morocco in June that left at least 23 people dead.

A documentary from the BBC’s Africa Eye team, under the heading ‘How Spain looked on as dozens were crushed to death at its border’, said video footage showed ‘at least one dead body’ at the entrance of the Melilla border post, as well as other bodies being removed by Moroccan security forces.

Spanish authorities had confirmed this area was ‘under their control’, the BBC added.

The documentary, which was broadcast on Tuesday, said it was based on ‘dozens of public and private videos’ filmed during the border breach on 24 June, casting doubt on official government accounts.

Cuca Gamarra, the number two from Spain’s main opposition party, the right-wing People’s Party (PP), demanded the BBC images be broadcast in the Spanish Congress and that the interior minister be present to explain. ‘We have to go all the way,’ she added.

The demand for explanations came also from left-wing party Podemos, the junior partner in Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s coalition government, led by the PSOE.

‘This report is a hard blow against the official version of the facts,’ said Jaume Asens, head of the party’s parliamentary group. He called for the a parliamentary commission of investigation to be set up.

The Spanish authorities said up to 2,000 migrants stormed the high fence that seals off Melilla from Morocco and engaged in a two-hour skirmish with border officers.

While scores succeeded in reaching the Spanish territory at the northern tip of Africa, Moroccan authorities said at least 23 people were killed in a crush while others died from falling after climbing up. Morocco’s AMDH rights group says as many as 27 migrants were killed.

It was the highest death toll in years of such attempted crossings into European Union territory.

Both Madrid and Rabat said the response of their border police was justified given the violence shown by the migrants.

But videos published on social media at the time showed migrants barely moving on the ground while Moroccan police beat them.

Spain’s interior ministry said in a statement it was ‘disappointing and surprising’ that ‘very serious’ accusations had been made ‘without any evidence’.

ALSO READ: Spain’s Ombudsman says country violated rights returning 500 migrants to Morocco.

ALSO READ: African Union Commission urges probe into deaths at Spain-Morocco border.

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