A 'Bloodbath’ Leaves Many African Refugees Dead at Spain-Morocco Border

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The actual number of casualties continues to be disputed and none of the victims have been identified in last week's tragedy.

Human rights organizations are calling for an independent investigation into the clashes that occurred at the border of Morocco and the Spanish territory of Melilla earlier last week.

It was first reported that 23 people were killed in what witnesses say was a “a bloodbath,” according to The Guardian.

However, Morocco's Human Rights Association contested the official death toll, reporting instead that 27 migrants had died, while the Spanish NGO Walking Borders is reporting 37 fatalities, ABC News reported.

About 2,000 migrants, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, attempted to cross into one of the EU’s two land borders with Africa last Friday when the migrants reportedly tried to climb fences at a checkpoint at the border, The Guardian reported.

During the melee, authorities began attacking the refugees, reports said.

“Some fell from the top of the barrier [separating the two sides],” a Moroccan official said following the incident, according to The Guardian.

The Guardian reported that 140 security personnel and 76 migrants were injured during the attempt to cross.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez told The Associated Press the mass crossing onto his border was a “violent assault” and “an attack on the territorial integrity of Spain.”

He also blamed the “mafias that traffic in human beings.”

However, a person named Mohamed, one of those who managed to get across spoke to the press and said otherwise.

“There are no mafias, we don’t have money to pay them. We organize ourselves,” he told broadcaster RTVE.

Since the tragedy, Human Rights Watch as well as  Moroccan and Spanish organizations, UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, and the African Union have all called for an inquiry.

“Video and photographs show bodies strewn on the ground in pools of blood, Moroccan security forces kicking and beating people, and Spanish Guardia Civil launching teargas at men clinging to fences,” said Judith Sunderland, acting deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch said in a statement. “Officials in Spain, Morocco, and the European Union should condemn this violence and ensure effective, impartial investigations to bring justice for those who lost their lives.”

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