A member of Spain's parliament says Spanish police launched scores of tear gas projectiles in an attempt to prevent a large number of migrants from breaking into the enclave of Melilla from Morocco in June.
MP Maria Carvalho has claimed that Spanish police launched 86 tear gas projectiles to repel migrants trying to break into the enclave of Melilla from Morocco on June 24, 2022.
Carvalho, from Catalonia’s leftist party ERC, is taking part in an inquiry into the incident, in which about 2,000 migrants tried to storm the border fence to enter the small Spanish territory. Resulting violent clashes between the migrants and Moroccan security forces and Spanish border guards left at least 37 people dead, according to independent experts appointed by the UN human rights office.
Moroccan officials said at the time that the deaths resulted from a crush, and from migrants falling from the high border fence. But rights groups have accused authorities on both sides of the border of using "unjustified" and "excessive force." They also claim tear gas was one of the triggers of the stampede.
Last week, the British broadcaster BBC released a documentary that said lifeless bodies were dragged by Moroccan police from an area under Spanish control and that the interior ministry was withholding crucial CCTV evidence from formal investigations.
86 tear gas cartridges
Carvalho, who was part of group of MPs that visited the scene of the tragedy on Monday and met with the Spanish Civil Guard, tweeted that they were given a list of riot ammunition used.
"270 shots, 28 smoke projectiles, 86 tear gas projectiles, 65 rubber bullets and 41 sprays (pepper)," she said.
Another Spanish MP, Jon Iñarritu, from the Basque pro-independence party HB, tweeted after watching some of the CCTV footage shown to the group: "There is no doubt, the main events occurred in Spanish territory."
The Spanish radio network Cadena SER reported Monday that it had seen some of the official footage which showed that young people "were crushed on Spanish soil."
Enrique Santiago, from the Unidas Podemos junior partner in the ruling coalition, said that "there was an apparent lack of attention to the most immediate relief needs of the victims."
'No death on Spanish territory'
Both Spanish and Moroccan authorities have continued to defend their actions, saying the migrants were violent and that reasonable force was used.
Despite the latest accusations, Madrid on Monday (November 7) denied that any deaths occurred on its soil.
"There was no death on Spanish territory," Spain's interior minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, told reporters when asked about the BBC documentary during a visit to the central town of Cuenca.
"State security forces acted within the law, with proportionality and necessity," he added.
The minister said 50 Spanish Civil Guard police officers were injured in the incident, which he called a "violent attack of the border, which is a European Union border."
Migrants continue to risk injury or death
The Spanish enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta in North Africa have long been a destination for people hoping to reach the European Union in order to escape violence and poverty in Africa. The borders are sealed with kilometers of parallel fences topped with barbed wire, video surveillance cameras and watchtowers.
Still, thousands of people have tried to cross into the two Spanish territories in the past 15 years, by climbing the fences, swimming along the coast or hiding in vehicles. Several of the attempts have resulted in deaths and serious injuries.
With Reuters, AFP