AU calls for investigation into migrants’ deaths during Melilla crossing

(FILES) This file photo taken on March 4, 2022 shows a view of the border fence separating Morocco (L) from Spain's North African Melilla enclave (R), near Nador in Morocco. - Around 2,000 migrants tried to storm the border separating Spain's Melilla enclave from Morocco on June 24, the first such attempted mass crossing into the territory since the two nations mended diplomatic ties in March. Over 500 managed to enter the border control area after cutting a fence with shears, the Spanish government's local delegation said in a statement. (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

The African Union (AU) on Sunday called for an immediate investigation into the circumstances that led to the deaths of at least 23 migrants during a mass attempt to cross from Morocco into Spain’s enclave of Melilla.

AU Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat said he was in deep shock and concern at the “violent and degrading treatment” of African migrants attempting to cross an international border.

FILE PHOTO: This file photo shows a view of the border fence separating Morocco (L) from Spain’s North African Melilla enclave (R), near Nador in Morocco. /AFP

Mahamat also reminded all countries of their obligations under international law to “treat all migrants with dignity and to prioritize their safety and human rights, while refraining from the use of excessive force.”

More than 130 people managed to cross the border after more than 2,000 people had tried to climb the iron fence that separates Morocco and Melilla on Friday.

Dozens of people were also injured in the incident while authorities said 176 Moroccan security officers and 49 Spanish border guards sustained injuries.

The incident is believed to be the deadliest in recent memory along the section of the European Union’s only land border with Africa.

Several human rights groups, including the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), have also weighed in expressing their concern over what happened at the Morocco-Melilla border.

(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)