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Statement on killing of Sub-Saharan migrants at the Spanish border

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On the occasion of their 2022 annual meeting held in Madrid from 29-30 June, representatives of ActionAid’s General Assembly endorsed the following statement about the killing of migrants and asylum seekers at the Spanish border:

On 24th June, Spanish and Moroccan security forces employed indiscriminate violence against migrants attempting to enter Melilla (Spain). The Moroccan authorities say 23 civilians were killed, while civil society organizations on the ground have put the death toll at 37, a number that could continue to increase due to failure to provide proper care to the dozens injured.

The Prime Minister of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, reacted to the tragic events by congratulating the Spanish and Moroccan armed forces on their effectiveness. Some days later, the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, commented that “forced, and violent, crossing of an international border can never be condoned”.

None of these words correspond to the tragic killings that took place. Current policies externalizing EU border control to third countries systematically violate human rights, treating people like cattle. Black African people were handcuffed, stacked, and victimized. This is no coincidence. Europe’s historical relationship with Africa has revolved around colonization, the plundering of its resources and the genocide of its population.

EU partners in Africa are calling for a radically different response. The president of the commission of the African Union, Moussa Faki Mahamat, has requested an immediate investigation and expressed “deep shock and concern at the violent and degrading treatment of African migrants attempting to cross an international border from Morocco into Spain”.

Spanish civil society and human rights organizations, at both sides of the border, many of them partners of ActionAid in Spain and Morocco, have expressed shame and rage about these events and are calling for an international independent investigation and for a radical change in EU polices. New demonstrations will be organized in Spain on the 1st July and in other countries around the world.

At a minimum, Europe must ensure the right to asylum as per the 1951 Geneva Convention as well as offer legal and safe pathways for people who migrate, as agreed in the Global Compact on Migration. These are the only mechanisms that truly avoid deaths and risks on the migration route and prioritize the dignity, safety, and protection of people's rights.

Equally, we underline that the increasingly desperate migrant journey out of the African continent is a direct result of failures of the economic and political system including the prevailing development models, democracy deficits, inaction on climate change and on the climate reparations owed by the North to the South, and migration policies that do not respect and uphold human rights.


  • We denounce racist double standards that violate international human rights law. The assistance offered by the European Governments and by the European Union to Ukrainians displaced by the conflict shows the extent to which everything depends on political will. We want the same rights for everyone! All rights for all people.
  • We demand an independent international investigation to clarify the details of this tragedy, as well as immediate action by judicial institutions both on the Moroccan and Spanish sides, to establish criminal responsibilities.   
  • We urge the authorities to prioritize the safety of migrants and refugees, uphold their human rights and refrain from excessive use of force.
  • We condemn the lack of prompt assistance to injured migrants, which led to many deaths that could have been avoided.
  • We call for adequate and quality health care to be provided to all those hospitalized in the wake of this tragedy.
  • We call on the governments involved to participate in the identification of the bodies and to support their return to their families in their countries of origin, in collaboration with the relevant diaspora organizations and consulates.
  • We urge the European Union, the Member States and other stakeholders involved to suspend inhumane migration policies that outsource border control.
  • We call for AU and member states to develop a clear strategy to reach more young women and men with programmes that protect their human rights and guarantee them safety and security.
  • And we call on institutions, media and citizens to stop the use and reproduction of images of lifeless black bodies that contribute to their dehumanization and revictimization.



ActionAid General Assembly members and observers