Spain and Morocco accused of violating immigrants' rights

Amnesty International accused Spanish and Moroccan security forces Wednesday of using exorbitant force and violating immigrants' rights in trying to repel waves of Africans seeking to gain a foothold in Europe over the past month. The London-based human rights group said it had gathered immigrants' testimony during a 10-day visit to the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, located on Morocco's northern coast, and to three Moroccan cities.

Amnesty said it would appeal for an independent, international investigation of the violence that left at least 11 people dead in Ceuta and Melilla as security forces opened fire on sub-Saharan Africans who climbed over, or attempted to, razor-wire fences to cross over from Morocco into those two Spanish cities.

"The fence kills. The fence allows people to be killed," delegation leader Javier Zuniga said. Neither country has held its security forces accountable, Amnesty said.

On Oct. 6, six Africans trying to cross over into Melilla died on the Moroccan side of the fences as they clashed with Moroccan security forces. The Moroccan Interior Ministry said some had been armed with knives or machetes, and that its police shot and killed four in legitimate defense. It said the other two died from shock caused by multiple wounds, according to the Moroccan state news agency MAP.

Five Africans were killed on Sept. 29 when hundreds of Africans rushed the Ceuta border. Three bodies were found on the Spanish side of the border and two on the Moroccan side. In Amnesty's talks with Spanish and Moroccan authorities about the incident, "each side blamed the other," said Philip Luther, another delegation member.

Since late August, waves of Africans from some of the continent's poorest countries have stormed the razor wire fences more than half a dozen times in a bid to reach Ceuta or Melilla. An estimated 700 have made it in.

Zuniga said immigrants had told Amnesty that Spanish police hit people with rifle butts and opened fire with large rubber pellets at very close range.

Amnesty's report on the fact-finding mission said the Spanish forces were ill-trained to deal with such a refugee crisis. In some cases, it said, immigrants who made into Spanish territory were immediately sent back to Morocco, in violation of Spanish law, the AP says.

Moroccan forces, meanwhile, sent hundreds of detained Africans into remote desert areas near they country's border with Algeria, leaving them without food or water and ordering them to walk across the frontier into Algeria, the report said.

Others were held at police stations or military bases in Morocco without being told how long they would be detained or that they had the right to see a lawyer and appeal their arrest, it said.


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