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Ángel Gabilondo, Spain's "defender of the people", or ombudsman, has concluded that the rights were not respected of the 470 people who tried to cross the Melilla border on June 24th and faced violent police actions to stop them. The tragic clash, in which dozens of people died, became even more controversial when the videos of the police action were leaked, with images showing the inhuman treatment meted out by the border police, which in many cases ended in the death of the would-be migrants. Subsequently, the Spanish government expressed pride in its operation, refused to investigate what happened, and celebrated the work of the Moroccan police in coordination with the Spanish security forces. This Friday, however, an advance release of the ombudsman's report turns the spotlight back onto the loss of life, affirming that "a situation of foreseeable risk" was produced, in which "no account was taken of the Spanish and international legal guarantees of the rights of migrants", such as, for example, the right of all people to seek asylum.

marruecos melilla migrantes valla tragedia AMDH nador
Aftermath of the human avalanche on the Melilla border/ AMDH Nador

The migrants' human rights were not respected

After analyzing the documentation provided by the Spanish ministries of interior and inclusion, the ombudsman "concludes that 470 people were turned away at the border without considering either Spanish or international legal provisions". Thus, people who were putting their lives at risk to try and continue on their migratory route did not receive the treatment stipulated by the law, and were subject to "hot returns" - immediate return to the other side of the border without any official processing - as well as violence, which are expressly prohibited due to the defencelessness in which a refugee or a minor can thus be placed. The Spanish institution's report voices its regret for "the loss of human life and the injuries caused in the tragedy" due to the police treatment, "and it is underlined that on that day in the area there was a situation of foreseeable risk, given the development of events," such as the human stampede that led to deadly crushes.

Actions that ombudsman will take

The involvement of the ombudsman in the events of June 24th has not yet concluded, and for this reason "he has asked the secretary of state for Security to send more images" to clarify what happened. As for the Spanish government, the ombudsman's office has opened an action against the Spanish foreign ministry to lead to "the reinforcement, through material and human means, embassies and consulates" of the border crossings, so that "people in need of international protection can access it and apply for asylum without having to risk their lives or use irregular routes to enter the country." The ombudsman also sent the medical report and the testimony of one of the victims to the Spanish public prosecutors' office for investigation. In addition, they will review the protocols that have been followed in youth detention centres to find out the age of migrants.