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Spain: no evidence of criminal misconduct in migrant deaths


MADRID — Spanish prosecutors have dropped their investigation into the deaths of more than 20 migrants last June on the border between Morocco and the Spanish enclave city of Melilla, saying in a statement Friday that they had found no evidence of criminal misconduct by Spanish security forces.

Prosecutors say they spent six months investigating what happened when hundreds of migrants – some estimates say around 2,000 – stormed the border fence at Melilla in northwest Africa from the Moroccan side in an attempt to reach European soil. At least 23 migrants have been officially declared dead, although human rights groups say the number was higher.

Spanish prosecutors said “it cannot be concluded that the conduct of the (Spanish) security officers involved increased the threat to the life and well-being of the immigrants, so that no charge of reckless homicide can be worn”.

The migrants were “hostile and violent”, according to the prosecutors’ statement.

Hundreds of men, some wielding sticks, scaled the fence from Moroccan territory and were herded into a border crossing area. When they made it through the gate on the Spanish side, a stampede apparently led to many people being crushed.

Moroccan police fired tear gas and beat men with batons, even when some were lying on the ground. Spanish guards surrounded a group that managed to get past before apparently sending them away.

The clash ended with African men, obviously injured or even dead, piled on top of each other as Moroccan police in riot gear looked on.

Spanish prosecutors said that “at no time did the (Spanish) security officers have reason to believe that there were people at risk who needed help”.

The Spanish security agents who returned 470 of the immigrants to Morocco did so in accordance with their duty and Spanish immigration law, the statement said.

So-called “push-backs” – the forced return of people across an international border without assessment of their rights to seek asylum or other protection, in violation of international and EU law – are a contentious issue in Europe .

Prosecutors blamed some security officers who threw stones at immigrants, recommending disciplinary proceedings against them.

Amnesty International said earlier this month that Spain and Morocco’s handling of the inquiry, which has remained mostly silent on the issue, “smells of cover-up and racism”.

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