MADRID (AP) – The number of people who were killed after they tried to scale a border fence between Morocco and a Spanish enclave in North Africa rose to 23 on Saturday as human rights organisations in Spain and Morocco called on both countries to investigate the circumstances surrounding the deaths.
Moroccan authorities said the individuals died as a result of a “stampede” of people who attempted on Friday to climb the iron fence that separates the city of Melilla and Morocco.
In a statement, Morocco’s Interior Ministry said 76 civilians were injured along with 140 Moroccan security officers.
The ministry initially reported five deaths.
Local authorities cited by Morocco’s official Television 2M updated the number to 18 on Saturday and then reported that the death toll had climbed to 23. The Moroccan Human Rights Association reported 27 dead, but the figure could not immediately be confirmed.
Two members of Morocco’s security forces and 33 migrants who were injured during the border breach were being treated at hospitals in the Moroccan cities of Nador and Oujda.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on Saturday condemned what he described as a “violent assault” and an “attack on the territorial integrity” of Spain.
Spanish officials said 49 Civil Guards sustained minor injuries. “If there is anyone responsible for everything that appears to have taken place at that border, it is the mafias that traffic in human beings,” Sánchez said.
His remarks came as the Moroccan Human Rights Association shared videos on social media that appeared to show dozens of migrants lying on the ground, many of them motionless and a few bleeding, as Moroccan security forces stood over them.