The Spanish government should immediately suspend the deportation of undocumented migrants to Morocco from the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, Human Rights Watch said today.
Over the past two weeks, some 2,000 people have attempted to enter Ceuta and Melilla by storming the fences that surround these two Spanish cities located on the North African coast and adjacent to Morocco.
At least 11 people have died and scores have been injured, as Spanish and Moroccan troops attempted to block their passage into the enclaves. Hundreds of people are being housed in a temporary residence center and a makeshift camp in Melilla.
"Shipping people back to Morocco is not an answer to this crisis," said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "Protecting these extremely vulnerable people should be the Spanish government's priority."
There are alarming reports of human rights violations against migrants deported to Morocco from Spain or detained in Morocco as they tried to enter Ceuta or Melilla. Mйdecins Sans Frontiиres on Friday said that, in the desert near the Moroccan-Algerian border, it had discovered more than 500 people abandoned by Moroccan police without food or water.
The Moroccan government has reportedly begun transporting hundreds of men, women and children in bus convoys towards the border with Algeria, claiming that the migrants passed through there before entering Morocco. Reportedly, many of the migrants have been handcuffed in pairs and have not been given food or water, reports Reuters.
According to Telegraph, Franco Frattini, the EU justice commissioner, sounded the alarm at a meeting of ministers from all 25 member governments in Luxembourg.
He also launched a radical scheme under which the EU will pay African governments to offer better treatment to would-be refugees, in the hope that fewer refugees will try to keep moving north and reach Europe.
Mr Frattini called on EU ministers not to imagine that this was solely a Spanish problem.
"Intelligence studies suggest that around 20,000 immigrants are in Algeria determined to begin their journey to Morocco and then Ceuta and Melilla, with another 10,000 waiting in Morocco," Mr Frattini said.
"Illegal migrants who make it into Spanish territory will, in many cases, move on to other member states, be it France, the Netherlands or the United Kingdom."
The border fences at the Spanish enclaves, relics of the colonial era, were facing "massive and co-ordinated" assaults by migrants. Senior commission officials visited the region last weekend after violent clashes and fatalities as migrants tried to scale razor-wire barriers. P.T.