Moroccan security forces kill African migrants; crisis grows over Spanish enclaves

Moroccan troops killed six undocumented African migrants attempting to reach the Spanish-controlled enclave of Melilla on the Mediterranean coast Oct. 6. Citing Abdellah Bendhiba, the governor of Nador province, news accounts said the Africans were killed in a “violent” assault by 400 migrants on guard posts outside the enclave. Security forces responded in self-defense, the report said. 290 were reported arrested, and Spain pledged to deport another 70 migrants from Mali who had reached the enclave “illegally.” (EiTB24, Spain, Oct. 6)

The frequency of such incidents is rising. At least two African migrants were killed Sept. 29 when hundreds attempted to climb over the border fence separating the Spanish enclave of Ceuta from Morocco. Reports said the “human avalanche” was the result of an attempt by some 500 to overwhelm Spanish border police. Authorities said the two men were killed in the crush.

Critics of the Spanish government say the increase in the number of African migrants trying to get into Melilla and Ceuta is a result of the three-month amnesty declared in Spain last year, in which undocumented immigrants who had secured jobs were granted residence and work permits. The Spanish government argues that the mass attempts are the result of tighter controls elsewhere along the border. (Euroresidentes, Spain, Sept. 29)

The existence of the two colonial outposts is an anachronism which has become a political football in recent years. Over the summer, Spanish authorities formally protested the visit of the UK’s Princess Ann to Gibraltar to commemorate the 300th anniversary of British rule over the enclave on Spain’s southern coast. (Euroresidentes, Aug. 3) Moroccans, in turn, are quick to accuse Madrid of hypocrisy for demanding sovereignty over Gibraltar while maintaining the twin enclaves on Morocco’s coast. The situation actually came to military conflict (if briefly and farcically) in the summer of 2002, when Moroccan troops raised their flag over a barren rock off Ceuta claimed by both countries, and were expelled by Spanish troops. (See WW4 REPORT #43) The independence movement in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara, in turn yet again, accuses Morocco of hypocrisy: Rabat challenges Spanish colonial rule over two small coastal cities, while maintaing its own (illegal) colonial rule over the far larger and more resource-rich territory to Morocco’s south.

Meanwhile, with unrest, repression, hunger and ecological collapse haunting the Sahel, it is certain that the migrants will keep coming north, risking all for the prospect of economic survival in Europe—a reality that contributes to the neo-fascist backlash now sweeping the continent.