Melilla: African ambassadors in Rabat support Morocco's 'efforts' despite migrants' deaths
At least 37 migrants "have been killed" due to the "unjustified" use of violence by Moroccan security forces, said the Moroccan Association of Human Rights (AMDH), when 2,000 Sub-Saharan migrants attempted to cross the northeastern Moroccan city of Nador into the Spanish-controlled enclave of Melilla this past Friday.
The final death toll is likely to be much higher as dozens remain severely injured, added the human rights group. This is the "greatest tragedy" recorded at this border.
Late on Sunday, several African diplomats met with Moroccan officials from the interior and foreign ministries to discuss the "immigration crisis", in response to Friday's incident, in which dozens of migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan countries, were also reportedly injured.
Despite the deaths and injuries, several African ambassadors in Rabat have strongly voiced support for "Morocco's efforts in protecting its borders".
"Cameroon stands by Morocco in managing this incident [in reference to Melilla]," Muhammadu Issoufou Ashad, Cameroon's ambassador to Rabat, told the media at the headquarters of Morocco's foreign ministry in Rabat. "[The migration crisis] does not honor our continent or our countries."
Diplomats from Gabon and Nigeria also shared similar statements.
Twenty-nine asylum seekers have died so far from their injuries according to the Moroccan Association of Human Rights (AMDH).
Moroccan authorities said at least 140 members of the national security forces were also injured during the "clash" when around 2,000 "armed" migrants stormed the borders early on Friday.
At least 500 people managed to enter a border control area after cutting a fence with shears, the Spanish government's local delegation said.
The Moroccan-African diplomatic meeting was held after Moroccan and Spanish NGOs condemned Rabat's violent actions.
AMDH shared on Saturday pictures and videos of what appears to be corpses and injured migrants piled over each other on the street under the watch of forces dressed in Moroccan official uniforms.
In response, Moroccan authorities said that several of the migrants were injured because they had fallen from the top of the barrier.
AMDH published another image the following day, depicting about twenty-one graves in Sidi Salem's cemetery in Nador city which the organization says were meant for to hold the bodies of migrants who died during the tragedy.
"Without investigation, without autopsy and without identification, the authorities seek to cover up the disaster," the AMDH said on Facebook.
For his part, Mahamat Abderassoul, Chad's ambassador told local media on Sunday, "Social media published photos and videos that give the impression that Morocco has not taken responsibility. This is not true."
Meanwhile, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez applauded Spanish and Moroccan collaboration on the border, saying the attempt for a mass migration was "well resolved".
Mustapha Baitass, the spokesperson of the Moroccan government, blamed the tragedy on "mafias who traffic in human beings".
The Moroccan foreign minister has yet to speak about the incident.
Notably, in 2020, Nasser Bourita, Morocco's foreign minister, had said that Morocco "refuses to play the role of immigration gendarmes to protect the European border" when a diplomatic crisis erupted after 8,000 migrants surged across the Moroccan-Spanish borders in what was widely seen as "a punitive gesture" by Rabat against Madrid hosted Brahim Ghali, the head of the Western Saharan separatist Polisario Front.
In March this year, Madrid settled a year-long diplomatic dispute with Rabat by backing Morocco's autonomy plan for Western Sahara, overturning its traditional neutral stance regarding the dispute over the territory.
Sanchez then visited Rabat, in which the two governments hailed a "new stage" in relations and cooperation, focusing on immigration.
"The death of those young Africans on the European borders is a warning to us about the deadly nature of the Moroccan-Spanish security collaboration on immigration," said the group in a press statement that was also co-signed by 40 Moroccan and Spanish NGOs.
The human rights group has also urged African delegations to stand with its citizens instead of "complying with Rabat's officials."
It should be noted that Rabat considers Melilla and Ceuta Moroccan territories occupied by Spain. However, its combat to liberate the enclaves has been lukewarm at its best, with Moroccan officials avoiding using the term "occupied" in official statements.