UN slams Spain over assault on migrant

The United Nations has criticized Spain over a recent incident which saw a Cameroonian man dumped back inside Morocco after video footage showed him being assaulted by Spanish border police.

UN slams Spain over assault on migrant
A still image from the video in which Melilla Civil Guard officers are shown beating a migrant before carrying him to the other side of the fence. Screen grab: Prodein/AFP

The UN High Commission for Refugees is concerned that the human rights of those struggling to enter Spain by crossing high fences around the country’s North African enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta are not being respected.

The spokeswoman in Spain for the UN High Commission for Refugees said she was "worried" by video footage of an attempt by a number of sub-Saharan Africans to scale the fence complex and enter Melilla from Morocco on October 15th which shows one migrant being beaten by border guards before being carried, apparently unconscious, back to the Moroccan side.

"Whatever their reasons for trying to enter, these people must be respected and these images show that some parties are not acting as they should… There are people beating those who are on the fence," Maria Jesus Vega told the AFP news agency.

UNHCR fears that Spanish police are denying "asylum procedures to people in need of international protection, who come to Spain's southern border fleeing war and persecution", Vega's office said in a statement on Friday.

It urged Spain to take all "necessary measures to prevent this kind of situation from occurring again at Spain's borders".

The migrant who suffered the beating was later identified by the Prodein human rights group as Danny, a Cameroonian citizen believed to be 23 years old.

José Palazón, president of Prodein, the association which first published the video of the beating, told the online news site on Monday that Danny had survived the experience, despite rumours that the beating had been fatal.

Palazón recounted a brief telephone conversation in which Danny said that he had been urinating blood and could not lie on his side, but that he had been given painkillers.

The human rights activist said that he could not ascertain whether the Cameroonian had been treated in a hospital or whether he remained on Mount Gurugú, a forested area outside Melilla where many African migrants camp out in the elements before attempting to reach Europe. Many were reportedly rounded up over recent days and driven in buses to the central Moroccan city of Fez.

Prodein and other groups repeatedly denounce the returning of would-be immigrants through the fence after they have stood on Spanish soil. International and national law demands that at this point, the individual should be identified and due legal process obeyed.

The Spanish government’s delegation in Melilla last week defended the actions of the Civil Guard, citing aggression on the part of migrants trying to breach the border fence. Several guards were injured while trying to stop last Wednesday’s attempted break-in.  

On Monday at least 60 sub-Saharan Africans succeeded in scrambling over the border into Melilla, according to El País.

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