Six migrants died Oct. 5-6 trying to cross barbed-wire fences into the Spanish enclave of Melilla on Morocco's northern coast, the Interior Ministry said, according to the MAP news agency. Of those, four died after being shot in a "spray of gunfire by Moroccan security forces." The other two are believed to have died after blood loss from multiple wounds, MAP said, without specifying what caused the wounds. The victims' names and nationalities are unknown, as they were not carrying identification.
Migrants from sub-Saharan Africa frequently use this kingdom as a transit point while trying to reach two Spanish enclaves in North Africa, fleeing poverty and hoping to start a new life in Europe. Eleven people have died in recent weeks while trying to storm across the border.
The Interior Ministry said that some of the migrants who stormed the fence were armed with machetes or other knives, requiring security forces to fire their weapons in "legitimate defense," the news agency reported.
Last week, a U.N. human rights expert called for a transparent and independent investigation into the deaths. The use of firearms by border guards is only permitted under international law if it is for self-defense or to protect others from death or serious injury, noted Jorge Bustamante, a U.N. expert on migrants rights, the AP reports.
After the shooting deaths, Morocco drew more criticism from human rights groups for allegedly transporting hundreds of Africans caught near Melilla to the Sahara Desert and leaving them stranded there without food or water. Morocco has denied this. A.M.