A young woman was reportedly shot dead by Moroccan police as she was about to board a migrant boat headed for the Canary Islands.
The Spanish news agency EFE reported that a boat with 29 people from sub-Saharan Africa and six Moroccan nationals on board had been preparing to set sail for the Canary Islands overnight on Sunday (September 11). According to Helena Maleno from the NGO Caminando Fronteras, the departure point was between the town of Tarfaya, in southern Morocco, and Akhfenir, in Western Sahara.
Maleno told EFE that Moroccan police intervened to prevent the migrants from departing, firing several shots in the process. One hit a young woman and killed her.
"A young Sub-Saharan woman was shot in the chest when she was trying to get on a boat. Moroccan authorities opened fire on the migrants," Maleno tweeted.
"We had thought that the violence had peaked with the Melilla massacre, but we were wrong."
Moroccan and Spanish authorities have been accused of using excessive force against African migrants who tried to enter the Spanish enclave of Melilla from Nador in Morocco on June 24. At least 37 people died in the incident.
Maleno said that in the shooting on Sunday night in which the sub-Saharan woman lost her life, three men were injured and were admitted to hospital. Two others were run over by police vehicles and also suffered injuries.
A Moroccan digital media outlet 'Bladna24' also reported on the woman’s death. According to the report, the local gendarmes had fired "warning shots" in order to stop a human smuggling operation.
The woman’s body was taken to the mortuary at a hospital in Al-Ayoun City, Bladna24 said. The report also claimed that one of the three injured migrants was 26-year-old son of the mayor of Akhfenir, who was shot in the back.
"It's unacceptable to shoot people from behind," said Helena Maleno. "We get the impression that the police wanted to kill, otherwise why not shoot in the legs or the feet?"
As of Monday night, the Moroccan authorities had not commented on the incident.
Joint effort to stop migrants
In recent years, the south of Morocco, including the occupied territory of Western Sahara, has increasingly become a departure point for African migrants hoping to reach the European Union via the Canary Islands, a hundred kilometers away.
At least 138 people reached the islands on Tuesday after they were rescued by Spanish coast guard authorities, according to the news website Canarias7.
But following a thaw in relations in March, Spain and Morocco are making renewed efforts to prevent migrants from arriving in the islands.
Moroccan gendarmes reportedly arrested 34 people on Monday – all Moroccan nationals – while they were preparing to leave by boat to the Canaries, according to EFE. One man who had allegedly organized the journey was taken into custody.