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migrants who survived the Melilla tragedy are not giving up on Europe

“I will not go back. Whether I find life or death there, I will pass this barrier, I will still try to go to Europe. » On June 24, Ayman tried, like nearly 2,000 other migrants, to cross the barrier that separates Morocco from the Spanish enclave of Melilla.

The young Sudanese still wears a bandage on his leg. “There was like an explosion next to me”, he recalls, a pair of crutches resting beside him. Like many other migrants, after the attempt to cross, he was “moved” forcibly by the Moroccan authorities in a town further south.

The risk is worth taking

On the day of the tragedy, at least 23 people died and only 133 managed to cross into Spain. This is the first time that there have been so many victims during attempts to cross Melilla or Ceuta. Ayman may have almost lost his life, but he is not ready to give up crossing the Mediterranean. “In Sudan, there is war. Even if you have your family there, even if you have money, there is no security. In Europe, I heard that life would always be better than the one I had there,” explains the young man, who claims to be 18 years old and come from the Darfur region, in the grip of an interminable conflict.

Ayman began his long journey in 2019. After trying to reach Italy from Libya, he joined Morocco, via Algeria. Ceuta and Melilla, two Spanish enclaves located in the north of the Cherifian kingdom, are the European Union’s only land borders with Africa. On the morning of June 24, the migrants, mostly Sudanese, headed in columns towards Melilla from camps in the forests of the region, on the Moroccan side. Some were armed with sticks.

A very heavy toll

“Our goal was to go there together to open the door to the border post. When we found ourselves facing the fence, the Moroccan security forces began to target us with rubber bullets, tear gas, stones… Some fell from the fence, and the Moroccans were hitting our limbs, our heads… Around from me, there were more and more wounded and dead,” says Saleh, a Chadian survivor, injured in the head. “I also saw the Spanish police aiming at us with rubber bullets,” describes Ayman for his part.

In a very severe report on the action of the Moroccan authorities published at the end of July, the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH) estimated that “the decision to violently attack asylum seekers once they arrive at the barrier (…) is undoubtedly the main cause behind the very heavy balance sheet “. It also deplores the violence committed against those injured or arrested, the lack of care given to the victims for several hours, and also criticizes the action of the Spanish police. “If these European, Spanish and Moroccan migration policies have always caused deaths on the migration routes at sea, this is the first time that these same policies pushed to the limit are deadly on a land barrier”says the association.

For its part, the National Council for Human Rights, a state organization, found that the deaths had occurred by “mechanical asphyxiation” due to “the jostling and the agglutination of the large number of victims in a hermetically sealed space”and described the “acute violence” immigrants. About 140 members of the security forces were injured, says the Ministry of the Interior, which did not wish to respond to The cross.

Spain accuses the mafias

The day after the tragedy, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez accused the “mafias that engage in human trafficking” to be responsible for “violent assault”. A version denied by the survivors: “We organized ourselves spontaneously”, says Saleh.

“If the mafia was involved, how to explain that the vast majority of migrants could not pass? They are above all young people, the poor, who manage themselves. There will always be leaders who will try to organize things and get paid, but in a logic of misery,” describes Mehdi Alioua, sociologist, specialist in migration issues. This does not prevent the intervention of networks of smugglers. “The more the borders become hardened, the less the self-organization of migrants is enough”, he continues.

Reconciliation between Morocco and Spain

Pedro Sánchez also praised the action of the Moroccan and Spanish police forces. After a diplomatic quarrel linked to the question of Western Sahara, the two countries formalized their reconciliation last April. “Europe is outsourcing the management of its border to Morocco. In this drama, she is responsible and Morocco is an accomplice. It is regrettable, while the kingdom is a leading country when it comes to discussing migration in African bodies”, deplores Mamadou Diallo, general coordinator of the Collective of sub-Saharan communities in Morocco.

The kingdom has become in recent years a major passageway for sub-Saharan Africans who want to reach Europe. “Life for a Sudanese is very complicated here,” says Ayman. For Mehdi Alioua, “it is essential to reorganize the way we think about migration between Morocco and Europe. We must understand that we will never prevent people from moving. Putting up barriers only makes borders more deadly. »

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Always more migrant crossings

On July 28, nearly 1,500 migrants were rescued speak Geo Barents of Doctors Without Borders (MSF), theocean viking of SOS Méditerranée and the Sea Watch 3as they tried to cross the Mediterranean, and waited to disembark.

Since 1er January, 38,778 people arrived in Italy by sea,against 27,771 over the same period of 2021 and 12,999 in 2020, according to the Ministry of the Interior.

Nearly 700 migrants crossed the English Channel, monday 1er august,aboard small boats. This is the highest figure since the start of the year, according to the British Ministry of Defence.

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