Melilla is a city on the North coast of Morocco which is controlled by the Spanish government. It is surrounded by three parallel border fences over 10 miles long separating Moroccan from Spanish territory. This border fence is protected both by the Spanish and Moroccan military police, because since the 1996 Barcelona Agreement the Moroccan State has been paid by the EU to protect its external borders.
In mid-March 2013 over 100 people from different West African countries attempted to climb over the fences at the same time. The majority were from Cameron and Mali, with some Gambians and Senegalese. Crossing the border fence at Melilla is one of the few options they have for entering European Union territory to claim asylum or seek work and send money home to their families.
As they attempted to climb the fence the migrants were pelted with stones and beaten with sticks by Moroccan police. Some people were also injured as they fell from the fences, the first of which is 7 meters high. After the first fence there is another (4 metres high) then yet another marking the actual border to Spain. Despite these obstacles at least 55 of the migrants successfully made it into Spanish territory. Unfortunately the majority were not so lucky.
One Cameroonian man was killed during the attempt to cross and another died later in hospital. A third Cameroonian man was found dead on the mountainside on the way back from the hospital to his camp in the forest near the fences. Apart from the deaths of these three people from Cameroon many others of various different nationalities were seriously wounded.
Events like these happen every few weeks at the Melilla border. Most of the migrants who failed to cross in this incident returned back to camps in the forest near the border to try again another time. While they are camping in the forest they face severe shortages of food, water and medical care.
Migrants wishing to enter Europe have few options other than to enduring the hardships involved in this incredibly risky strategy of combining together so that at least a few people can make it to Melilla at a time. For most of them giving up and turning back home is simply not an option.
The total death toll from all these attempts must be in the thousands, though there are no reliable statistics. These murders are the direct result of the European Union’s policy of paying the Moroccan State to do it’s dirty work of preventing migrants from crossing it’s external borders.
This policy is a clear continuation of colonial relationships between European and African countries. The leaders of the European Union resort to routinely murdering migrants simply to keep African people in a state of poverty as a supply of cheap labour. The only reason that migration to Europe is the only realistic chance of increasing the financial prospects for most Africans is because European capitalists and politicians have been exploiting Africa’s resources and labour for hundreds of years through the use of extreme violence.
Our thoughts are with the families and friends of the three dead Cameroonians. Medicin Sans Frontiers are able to offer medical assistance to some migrants near the Melilla border but the humanitarian and political situation is still dire. More help is urgently needed.