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MIGRATION

Melilla migrants sentenced to 8 months in Moroccan jail

Morocco on Thursday sentenced 14 migrants to eight months in jail following their arrest a day before a deadly mass crossing into the Spanish enclave of Melilla in June.

Melilla migrants sentenced to 8 months in Moroccan jail
A Moroccan security forces guard patrols the border fence separating Morocco and Spain's North African enclave of Melilla, on June 26, 2022. Photo: FADEL SENNA/ AFP

Fourteen migrants have been sentenced to eight months in Moroccan jail following their arrest a day before a deadly mass crossing into the Spanish enclave of Melilla in June, their lawyer has said.

“It’s a very severe judgement,” the lawyer, Mbarek Bouirig, told AFP. He said he planned to appeal.

The accused, mostly from impoverished Sudan, were arrested on June 23 during a Moroccan operation near Melilla, which along with Spain’s other enclave of Ceuta is the EU’s only land border with Africa.

At least 23 migrants died the following day when around 2,000 people, many also Sudanese, stormed the fences along the frontier. It was the heaviest death toll in years of attempted crossings into the enclaves.

The 14 were charged with offences including belonging to a criminal immigration gang and insulting law enforcement officers, Bouirig said.

Omar Naji of the AMDH human rights group, which monitored the trial, said the migrants did not try to cross the border.

 “Why condemn migrants whose sole wrongdoing was to have taken refuge in a forest?” he asked.

A Moroccan court last month sentenced 33 migrants to 11 months in jail for illegal entry, while a separate trial of 29 migrants including a minor continues.

Spanish rights group Caminando Fronteras says as many as 37 people lost their lives in the mass crossing attempt, higher than the official toll of 23.

The United Nations, the African Union and independent rights groups have condemned the use of excessive force by Moroccan and Spanish security personnel.

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MIGRATION

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?

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