By Omar Bah
The Gambia Government has instructed its embassies in Morocco and Spain to investigate the death of several migrants who were trying to enter Europe through the Spanish enclave of Melilla, The Standard has been reliably informed.
At least 23 migrants have died and others were hurt on Friday when a huge crowd tried to cross into Spain’s North African enclave of Melilla, officials from neighbouring Morocco said.
Reports said 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.
When contacted for comments on whether the government has confirmed any Gambian casualties, the director for Diaspora and Migration at the foreign affairs ministry, Musa Camara, said: “We have seen the videos and we are monitoring the situation through our missions in Madrid and Rabat in terms of the number of Gambians affected. We are waiting for a report from the 2 missions.”
The weekend incident was the first such attempted mass crossing since Spain and Morocco resumed diplomatic ties in March.
Spanish officials said several hundred people tried to break through into the enclave after cutting fencing.
Most were forced back but more than 100 got through and were being processed at a reception centre.
Originally 18 deaths were reported, but officials said on Saturday that five more people had died of their injuries.
Melilla and Ceuta, another Spanish enclave, have in recent years become a focal point for mostly sub-Saharan migrants attempting to reach Europe.
Reacting to the deaths, Uhuru Valencia, a group of Afro-descendant and African people of the Valencian Community has condemned the incident and together with other associations are requesting “the opening of a serious investigation” to determine the circumstances of this atrocity and the guilty personnel prosecuted.
“This atrocity cannot remain unpunished under any circumstances and all political actors will have to take responsibility. This dismissive and abusive treatment of African people has to stop!! We demand to hear the voices of condemnation from all African countries and all countries desiring to do business with Africa.
“It is not acceptable for Africans to be brutalized and murdered in this inhumane way at the hands of the same authorities who are supposed to be upholding human rights. The world courts and humanity must put a stop to it. We stand with all the families who have lost loved ones in this incident in calling for an investigation to assess to what extent the police and armed forces were directly or indirectly responsible for some of these deaths and mistreatment of the dying and wounded,” the group said in a statement shared with The Standard.
The voices of all migrants, the group added, must be heard.
“Enough of the differentiated treatment of people seeking refuge based on colour. We send our condolences to the entire Black African community of which we are a part and call on all the media and associations to join in the condemnation and support the call for an immediate investigation and firm action against all those responsible,” it added.