Podemos in Spain demands investigation into Melilla migrant tragedy after scathing BBC report

The junior coalition partner of the Spanish government, Unidas Podemos, demanded a parliamentary investigation Tuesday into the tragedy in Melilla that left at least 24 migrants dead in June.

The request came after a BBC documentary contradicted the official version of the Spanish government.

The BBC alleges that bodies of migrants were dragged from Spain to Morocco, rubber bullets were fired at migrants at close range on Spanish territory and Spanish agents watched passively as Moroccan agents beat migrants.

The report also found that Spanish authorities were aware of the crossing beforehand and are withholding video evidence.

Spain’s Interior Ministry says the BBC’s findings do not “correspond to reality” and insists that Spanish forces acted according to the law during the incident.

In addition to the 24 dead migrants, 70 involved in the incident remain missing, according to human rights groups.

“We are angry with the Interior Ministry because Marlaska is not behaving like a progressive minister,” said Unidas Podemos spokesman Jaume Asens, referring to Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska. “It’s absurd that citizens only know what happened on the Melilla border thanks to a foreign investigation.”

Sudanese migrants who survived the tragedy told the BBC that the night before the tragedy, Moroccan police threatened to shoot them if they did not leave an area in the mountains where they were staying. They decided to walk to the border in the Spanish enclave of Melilla, and unlike other times they attempted to cross, they did not meet any resistance.

The crowd of migrants was easily observed on their route and video showed Moroccan security vehicles moving out of their way.

It was not until they were at the fence that attacks began. Moroccan forces fired tear gas and smoke bombs.

Now surrounded by Moroccan forces, migrants said they had little choice but to try to climb the fences. After passing some fences, many ended up passing into a courtyard area in “no-mans land,” where they were trapped and pummeled with teargas.

“We put our hands in the air to show we were helpless and had no weapons, that we would surrender. They could have arrested us and taken us out of there,” an unnamed migrant involved told the BBC. “But they did the opposite. They used all the weapons at their disposal.”

The courtyard was eventually so packed that there was a stampede where dozens of people were crushed, according to footage collected by BBC.

From there, hundreds managed to cross to the Spanish side. But according to an independent report by the Spanish ombudsman, 470 were pushed back across the border and handed to Moroccan forces.

Images show hundreds of migrants piled up on the ground with their hands tied behind their backs under the custody of Moroccan forces. Some appeared dead or severely injured. None were receiving prompt medical care.

“They (Moroccan forces) would hit you to see if you were dead. If you were not dead, they would hit you more,” one man who lived through the situation told the BBC.

The BBC Africa Eye documentary used video reconstruction and information from Spanish police to allege that at least one migrant’s corpse was dragged from Spanish territory back to Morocco.

While Spanish authorities had numerous CCTV cameras in the area, last month, the Spanish ombudsman, in charge of the official investigation, criticized the Interior Ministry for withholding footage.

Spain’s Interior Ministry also denies withholding videos or images, and, as it did when asked by Anadolu Agency in June, continues blaming migrant trafficking “mafias” for what occurred.

Source: Anadolu Agency