UN rights office in probe call, after Morocco-Spain migrant deaths, Texas tragedy, show need for safer pathways

28 June 2022

The deaths of at least 23 migrants seeking to reach Spanish territory from Morocco should be investigated urgently by both countries, the UN rights office, OHCHR, said on Tuesday, reacting also to reports overnight of of least 50 migrants found dead in a truck in southern Texas.

The Morocco-Spain border incident took place last Friday when African migrants were reportedly “beaten with batons, kicked, shoved, and attacked with stones by Moroccan officials”, said OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani, in their attempt to scale the barbed-wire fence that separates Morocco from the North African, Spanish city of Melilla.

“This is the highest recorded number of deaths in a single incident over many years of migrants attempting to cross from Morocco to Europe via the Spanish enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta,” she said. “140 Moroccan border guards also reportedly sustained injuries.”

Border protection call

The OHCHR official urged Morocco and Spain to ensure that migrants’ human rights were protected at their joint border, and that border officers refrain from any use of excessive force.

An independent investigation was needed in view of the “competing accounts” of what had happened, she said.

“We also call on them to take to all necessary steps alongside the European Union, the African Union, and other relevant international and regional actors - to ensure human rights-based border governance measures are in place,” Ms. Shamdasani continued.

“These include access to safe migration pathways, access to individualised assessments and protection from collective expulsions and from refoulement, as well as from arbitrary arrest and detention.”

Texas truck tragedy

In a related development, Ms. Shamdasani expressed shock at reports that at least 50 bodies of migrants, according to latest news reports, had been found in an abandoned truck on the outskirts of San Antonio, Texas, apparently after crossing the border from Mexico.

Reports say that the deceased migrants included two dozen from Mexico, seven Guatemalans and two Hondurans, who had suffered heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Four children were among those who were found alive, and transported to hospital for treatment.

Three people have been arrested in connection with the horrific incident.

This is not the first such tragedy, and it illustrates again the critical need for regular safe pathways for migration as well as for accountability for those persons whose conduct has directly led to such loss of life,” the OHCHR official said.

Asked by journalists in New York about the migrant deaths in Texas, UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric, said that it was important for both the US and Mexican governments to investigate and "bring to justice all those who were responsible for this horrific chain of events."

"This horror, I think, once again highlights the tragedy that migrants face and asylum seekers, and it also highlights the need for comprehensive strategies for safe, orderly and regular migration in the region."

 

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