Africans Rising for Justice, Peace and Dignity is saddened by the news of the deaths of at least 23 Africans in the city of Melilla as they attempted to cross from Morocco into Spain. The border patrols at Melilla are infamous for their violence against African migrants, and these forces and their governments must be held accountable for their inhumane actions.
It is a notoriously perilous thing to cross a border on foot – this border in particular, which is known for its two-stories-high fences and razor wire barriers. Considering these dangers, we must ask ourselves and each other – from what were these migrants running? Their individual circumstances demand empathy, not cold shoulders. Who would choose to leave their home and homeland, with just the clothes on their back, for a future in which the only certainty involves the indignities that Africans often confront when they are trying to cross into Western borders? What did they see in the distance that gave them so much hope they would risk their lives for it?
The violent response of Moroccan and Spanish forces against these African people, desperate in their search for new futures and new possibilities for themselves and their families, will not be tolerated. We remind these border patrol authorities and their governments that under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights everyone has the right to seek asylum from persecution in other countries. We remind them that everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
As a Pan-African movement of the people, Africans Rising is calling upon our members in North Africa and Spain to speak up in defence of these migrants. Contact your local authorities and let them know we do not accept this sort of violence against African people. We call on all African leaders in the African Union to hold Morocco accountable and to demand the European Union hold Spain accountable for the humane treatment of people, citizens or not, who attempt to enter its borders. We support the call of the African Union for an immediate investigation into these deaths, and the call for safer passageways for migrants seeking asylum, as advocated by the International Organisation for Migration and the United Nations Refugee Agency. However, these calls must be heeded by Moroccan and Spanish authorities to have any meaningful effect.
We will continue to raise our voices and do our part to make sure these deaths are not in vain, but it is now time for leaders like Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and Moroccan Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch to join us in making sure these crimes against humanity no longer take place.
You can download the statement here.