Spain/Morocco: Another migrant shot dead in Melilla in July
An annex to the report documenting "10 years of human rights violations on the southern border" published by the national federation of SOS Racismo offices in the Spanish state, includes a complaint letter filed by SOS Racismo on 4 July 2006 before the Defensor del Pueblo (the Spanish ombudsman) and the answer by the ombudsman concerning two deaths during an attempt by dozens of migrants to jump the border fence in Melilla on the night of 2-3 July. In response to the demand to conduct an "exhaustive investigation into the events and circumstances surrounding these deaths, especially with regards to the actions of the Guardia Civil, in order to ascertain relevant responsibilities", the ombudsman quoted a report from the government envoy in the north African enclave-city of Melilla:
"As You indicate, at around 5:20 on the morning of 3 July , a group of sub-Saharan Africans, approximately between 50 and 70, attempted to assault the fence near to the border crossing in Farhana. Five of them managed to jump the external fence, one of whom died and another was seriously wounded. As for the dead man, although no hypothesis can be ruled out, what seems most likely is that his death was due to a shot from a firearm, although this will not be ascertained until the autopsy is carried out.
The Guardia Civil officers deployed at the border perimeter only employ regulamentary anti-riot equipment."
This last sentence means that any firearms used must not be loaded with live ammunition.
In the letter dated 28 July 2006, the ombudsman also informed SOS Racismo that "as a result of the contents of the report" by the government envoy, "the corresponding investigation before the Fiscal General del Estado (the Spanish attorney general's office) has started, in order to learn about the judicial action that has been undertaken to ascertain the facts that have been enquired about in this complaint".
Spain: The Southern Frontier: 10 years of human rights violations
On 5 October 2006, the national federation of SOS Racismo branches published a report to document events during the ten years in which it has been monitoring human rights violation on the southern border of the Spanish state. The report includes a round-up of events involving human rights violations, including in-depth information concerning 379 "illegal" deportations of sub-Saharan Africans to Morocco carried out in the enclave city of Ceuta (three of the cases are from Melilla). The testimonies collected by SOS Racismo "demonstrate how an overwhelming number of citizens from sub-Saharan Africa were returned illegally, contravening the immigration law because, in practice, there is no legal agreement for the return of third country nationals between Morocco and the Spanish state". The report contains a detailed chronology of events in 2005-2006, round-ups of significant events from previous years (1995-2004), direct testimonies by migrants collected by SOS Racismo, as well as analysis of European and Spanish policies in this field, with a special focus on Africa. A collection of press statements issued and legal actions undertaken by SOS Racismo is included as an appendix to the report.
Moreover, the "impressive range" of human rights violations that are documented include:
- torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment;
- violence during the detention and return;
- sexual violence;
- illegal arrests;
- obstructing asylum applications;
- use of excessive force during interception.
A number of charges are levelled at the Spanish authorities, including:
- "complicity" and "co-responsibility" in human rights abuses committed by the Moroccan army and gendarmerie, among other reasons, as a result of the provision of money and material, and contravening the European Court of Human Rights' doctrine that forbids expulsion to a country where one's life may be in danger;
- violating the Spanish immigration law by carrying out "irregular" returns without implementing the guarantees and procedures established by the law;
- violation of the Geneva Convention by denying access to asylum to people who enter Spanish territory at the border;
- the complete obstruction of access to justice for people who suffer aggressions by members of the Spanish law enforcement agencies, leading to a "situation of absolute impunity".
The report traces the changing pattern of the violations and migrant deaths during this last decade, from the first dinghies leaving Morocco and attempts to cross the border by clinging onto the bottom of lorries, to the expulsion of 103 migrants who were drugged and tied to their seats with masking tape (the then prime minister José María Aznar stated, "there was a problem and it has been solved"), to last year's shootings in Melilla, whose anniversary was marked last week by an international day of action in Europe and several African countries. The EU and Spain are accused of "exclusively agreeing measures for control and to limit access to their territories", of discriminating against Africans "who are on the receiving end of the most obstacles", adding that "Over the last years, African immigration has represented a small percentage of the total sum of arrivals in the Spanish state: the 'myth' of mass arrivals and avalanches only fosters social racism that is constructed through images and spoken language, serving to justify xenophobic attitudes and social alarmism". Referring to the hundred of deaths that occur every year (and are on the increase), SOS Racismo asks "how many more deaths does the government need to realise how profoundly inhumane its underlying position is?". The report continues by issuing recommendations for a radical overhaul of Spain's immigration policy and by criticising recent developments such as the externalisation of border controls, the massive expenditure on hi-tech border controls (SIVE) and agreements to patrol the coasts of countries of transit and origin, and recent developments in the EU's policy of "cooperation" with Africa, which reflect European interests, in accordance with which African states are required to act.
The full text of the report (pdf, in Spanish, 144 pages), Informe Frontera Sur. 1995-2005: Diez años de violación de los derechos humanos, can be downloaded on the websites of organisations belonging to the national federation of SOS Racismo:
Press summary of the report (pdf)
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