UN experts condemn continuing lack of accountability for stark dehumanisation of African migrants


GENEVA (31 October 2022) – It is alarming there is still no concrete accountability months after dozens of migrants of African descent, including refugees and asylum seekers, died during violent encounters with border security forces in Melilla, Spain, UN experts said today. E. Tendayi Achiume, ending her mandate today as the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, xenophobia and related intolerance, together with the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent and the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Execution made the following statement:

“We sent communications to the Spanish and Moroccan Governments on 13 July 2022 expressing concern about the violence. According to the information outlined in these communications, early in the morning of 24 June 2022, 2,000 men, mostly of Sudanese and South Sudanese descent, approached the vicinity of the Morocco-Spain border perimeter and attempted to scale a 6- to 10-meter chain-link fences surrounding Melilla. At least 37 Africans were killed, and dozens more were injured because of the excessive and lethal use of force by Moroccan and Spanish law enforcement authorities.

The violence documented in videos of the scenes at Melilla’s gate tragically reveals the status quo of the European Union’s borders, namely racialised exclusion and deadly violence deployed to keep out people of African and Middle Eastern descent, and other non-white populations, irrespective of their rights under international refugee or international human rights law. The lack of meaningful accountability for the June 24 deaths and injuries makes it difficult to conclude otherwise.

The events in Melilla, as well as the many other incidences of border violence and death, point to a willingness to sacrifice the lives of African and other migrants and refugees to secure the perimeter of Europe. Dead bodies are a seemingly tolerable feature of the borders of countries that ostensibly committed to human rights as a universal project.

Both the Spanish and Moroccan governments have replied to the communications sent.

We reiterate the previous call made to ensure accountability for the violence in Melilla. Thorough investigation, reparations to victims and their families, as well as guarantee of non-repetition are required under international human rights law.”

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