By Omar Bah
African Ambassadors in Rabat, Morocco, have called an emergency meeting with the Moroccan government to discuss the deaths of migrants who were trying to force their way into Spain’s North African enclave of Melilla.
At least 23 migrants were reported dead and others were hurt last Friday when a huge crowd tried to cross into Spain.
Reports say some of those who died had fallen from the top of a border fence. Several security personnel and migrants were admitted to hospital for treatment following clashes early on Friday. The Gambia Government has since instructed its embassies in Morocco and Spain to monitor the situation but there is no report of a Gambian casualty.
Contacted for an update, the director of Diaspora and Migration at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Musa Camara said: “The Gambian Embassy in Rabat has informed us that on Sunday 26th June 2022, the African Ambassadors in Rabat, had a meeting with the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the migrant incident that occurred in Melilla near Nador between migrants trying to enter the Kingdom of Spain and Moroccan police.
“The Moroccan authorities informed the African ambassadors that they learnt about this group of irregular migrants and tried to engage them in dialogue since March 2022 but this was blatantly refused. On Friday, June 24th, 2022 this same group numbering 2,000 marched through the town of Nador armed with sticks, bags full of stones, catapults and attacked the border of Melilla in a bid to cross to Spain,” Mr Camara said.
“The migrants trudged on, fighting with the Moroccan police. The fighting escalated to a point where the Moroccan police had to use full force resulting in casualties. According to the Moroccan authorities, 23 people died and a dozen more have been injured and hospitalised,” he added.
Mr Camara said the African ambassadors in Rabat have requested the Moroccan authorities to accord them access to those currently detained as well as those hospitalised to ascertain their nationalities.
“This is the only way it could be confirmed how many Gambians, if any, are involved and their fate,” he said.
Camara said the Gambian mission in Madrid has also contacted Mrs Elena Garzon Otamendi, the Spanish deputy director of immigrations and she confirmed that no Gambians were involved.
According to her, those who were processed claimed to come from Nigeria, Chad, Niger, and Sudan. She promised to provide more information as soon as received,” he explained.
Mr Camara said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is also monitoring through the Gambia High Commission in Dakar, the fate of Gambians in last week’s deadly boat fire in Kafountine, Casamance, southern Senegal.
“The mission has been written to share a report following their engagement with relevant Senegalese authorities about the fate of Gambians involved,” he said.
At least three Gambian youths were reported to have died in that accident.