EU, Morocco to step-up fight against human smugglers after Spanish border deaths

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The European Commission has vowed to step up its work with Morocco to fight human smugglers who are using “new, extremely violent methods”, two weeks after 23 people died at the border between Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Melilla.

More than 70 civilians and some 200 Moroccan and Spanish law enforcement officers were also injured when hundreds of sub-Saharan migrants and asylum-seekers attempted to storm through a border post and scale a border fence into Melilla.

“We have discussed how we can further cooperate on fighting the smugglers, preventing such violent and dangerous situation as we saw two weeks ago,” EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said in a video message after the meeting with Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska and Morocco’s Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit in Rabat to discuss the events of 24 June.

There were no further details on what exactly the new, violent methods being used by smugglers were but the European Commission said it would enhance police cooperation with Morocco, including with joint investigations.

Mustafa Baitas, a spokesman for the Moroccan government, said on Thursday the events at the Nador-Mellila border were “planned and orchestrated” in a way that was not typical of other attempts to storm the border into Spain.

At the time, Moroccan authorities said the migrants had died as a result of a stampede.

But several human rights organizations have called for an independent investigation into the deaths and condemned authorities on both sides of the border for excessive use of force.

Morocco’s Human Rights Association says 27 migrants died, four more than Moroccan authorities have reported.

Many of the victims were believed to be Sudanese, it tweeted.

“The Commissioner and the two ministers welcomed the fact-finding commission set up by the Moroccan National Human Rights Council,” the EU Commission statement said. Spanish prosecutors also announced last week they had launched an investigation into 24 June.

Videos showed countless of Black men lying on the ground that day, some motionless and bleeding, as Moroccan officers stood over them. (Source: Arab News)

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