Spanish Minister called to European Parliament over border deaths

Spain's Minister of the Interior, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, will be asked to appear in front of MEPs by the European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs to explain events in Melilla, but is under no obligation to do so.

Spanish Minister called to European Parliament over border deaths
Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande Marlaska at a Special European Interior Ministers Council in March, 2022. Photo: Aris Oikonomou/AFP

The European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs is set call Spain’s Minister of the Interior, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, to appear before MEPs next September to explain the recent tragedy in Melilla in which 23 sub-Saharan migrants died trying to scale the border between Morocco and Melilla, one of Spain’s North African territories.  

READ ALSO: 18 migrants die in mass attempt to enter Spain’s Melilla

The Committee is also considering sending MEPs to both Melilla and Morocco to get a better understanding of the facts, and what can be done to improve the border instability and avoid further tragedies. 

Although Marlaska himself is not obliged to appear at the European Parliament, the decision to ask him to appear before MEPs was made this Thursday in Brussels at the request of the ‘United Left’ group of members.

In a statement made following the committee meeting, MEP Miguel Urbán criticised what he believes to be the European Union’s “fortress Europe” migration policy, and pointed to the Spanish government for what had happened in Melilla. 

READ ALSO: Why are Ceuta and Melilla Spanish?

“It is the Moroccan regime, but they [Spain] are also responsible: the Spanish government that has been making institutional racism a border policy for decades,” Urban said.

The committee will also invite the Spanish Commission for Refugee Aid (CEAR) and the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH) to appear. AMDH recently published preliminary findings of a report that blamed Spanish inaction for worsening the situation on the border.

The AMDH suggested that the Spanish authorities “vacillated” in providing “the necessary assistance” to avoid an increase in violence and danger, which in turn led to more deaths.

READ ALSO: Spanish prosecutor opens probe into Melilla migrant deaths

The committee is set to hold its next meeting on September 5th, but the date is dependent on when, and if, Marlaska and the human rights groups can appear.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has stated since the incident that “the Moroccan Gendarmerie worked in coordination with the state security forces and bodies to repel this violent assault,” and that he considered the events in Melilla an “attack on the territorial integrity” of Spain. 

The Spanish government refused to directly address the AMDH report this week, but defended the actions of Guardia Civil agents.

READ ALSO: Spain defends Guardia Civil after migrant deaths

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Nearly 1,000 migrants died trying to reach Spain in first half of 2022: NGO

At least 978 migrants died or disappeared trying to reach Spain by sea in the first six months of 2022, an average of about five per day, a migrant rights group said Wednesday.

Nearly 1,000 migrants died trying to reach Spain in first half of 2022: NGO

That is less than half of the figure of 2,087 recorded during the first six months of 2021, according to Spanish non-governmental organisation Caminando Fronteras which tracks data from boats in distress.

The group suggests fewer people are attempting to reach Spain because Morocco has stepped up its clampdown on migrant crossings since Rabat and Madrid mended diplomatic ties in March.

It also points out that 2021 was an especially deadly year for attempted migrant crossings to Spain, with more than 4,000 deaths or disappearances.

Moroccan migrants help a Sub-Saharan African man facing difficulties in the water at the border between Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Ceuta on May 19, 2021 in Fnideq. (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

More than 80 percent of the deaths or disappearances during the first six months of the year took place during attempts to reach Spain’s Canary Islands in the Atlantic.

The route to the Canaries is particularly dangerous due to strong currents, with trips in often overloaded boats without enough drinking water taking more than a week to reach the archipelago.

Many of the departures are from distant ports in Western Sahara, Mauritania or even Senegal some 1,500 kilometres (900 miles) to the south.

Spain has long been a key entry point for migrants seeking a better life in Europe.

But the number of migrants who entered Spain by sea fell by 35.7 percent in the second quarter of 2022 over the first quarter, according to an AFP tally based on interior ministry figures.

READ ALSO: What happens to undocumented migrants when they arrive in Spain?