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African Union calls for probe after 37 African migrants killed at Morocco-Spain border

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African Union Commission (AUC) Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat has called for an "immediate investigation" after the deaths of dozens of migrants trying to cross from Morocco into the Spanish enclave of Melilla.

"I express my deep shock and concern at the violent and degrading treatment of African migrants attempting to cross an international border from #Morocco into #Spain, with the ensuing violence leading to the deaths of at least 23 people and injuries to many more," Mahamat said on Twitter late Sunday.

"I call for an immediate investigation into the matter and remind all countries of their obligations under international law to treat all migrants with dignity and to prioritize their safety and human rights, while refraining from the use of excessive force," he added.

Around 2,000 migrants tried to cross the militarized border fence Friday and were met with force from both Moroccan and Spanish authorities.

The UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) reported that the migrants came mostly from the impoverished African countries of Chad, Niger, South Sudan and Sudan and would have been considered asylum seekers under international law.

In addition to at least 37 fatalities, over 150 people were injured during charges and beatings by the security forces or after falling from the 6- to 10-metre-high fences preventing entry into the Spanish exclave from Morocco, media reports said.

Helena Maleno Garzon, head of the NGO Walking Borders, said at least 37 people lost their lives.

Videos from the Moroccan side of the border show what appear to be dead bodies and severely injured people strewn across the ground without receiving medical attention - some with their hands tied behind their backs.

Meanwhile, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has only applauded Spanish and Moroccan collaboration on the border, saying the mass migration attempt was "well resolved."

European Council President Charles Michel said: "We totally support Spain and all countries on the frontline protecting the EU's borders. Migration is a difficult challenge for everyone. I express my support for the Spanish authorities."

Many of the migrants have spent months or even years under precarious, dangerous conditions in the nearby forest of Gourougou, braving beatings and arrests in multiple attempts to reach better lives in Spain.

NGOs on the ground said the number of deaths could be higher. "We've confirmed 37 deaths in the Melilla tragedy," said Helena Maleno Garzà n, whose organization, Walking Borders, is in constant contact with Africans seeking to cross into Spain from Morocco.

Videos shared online by the Moroccan Association of Human Rights appeared to show dozens of people packed into an area next to the border fence - some bleeding and many lying motionless - as Moroccan forces in riot gear watched over them in the aftermath of the crossing.

"They were left there without help for hours, which increased the number of deaths," the group said on Twitter.

In the days before, police had carried out several raids on the camps where the migrants and refugees slept rough as they waited for the chance to cross into Spain, he said. The police confiscated food and any cash they could find, leaving migrants anxious and exhausted as they grappled with higher levels of precariousness.

The ugly face of European imperialism

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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