Europe and Morocco to improve efforts to tackle human traffickers

European Commission wants to enhance police co-operation with Morocco, including with joint investigations

People protest after the deaths of at least 23 people at the border between the Spanish enclave of Melilla and Morocco. AP/fioe
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Morocco and European Union leaders have promised to work together to better tackle the human trafficking gangs that prey on migrants chasing a new life.

The new moves come after 23 people were killed two weeks ago on the Spanish-Morocco border that is Africa’s only border with the EU.

EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson and Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska met Morocco’s Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit in Rabat on Friday.

They discussed the events of June 24 at the Melilla-Morocco border when hundreds of sub-Saharan migrants and asylum seekers attempted to storm through a border post and scale a border fence. In addition to the deaths, more than 70 civilians were injured.

“We have discussed how we can further co-operate on fighting the smugglers, preventing such violent and dangerous situation as we saw two weeks ago,” Ms Johansson said.

The European Commission said it would enhance police co-operation with Morocco, including with joint investigations.

“It’s important that we address these dangerous situations and these well-organised smuggling groups together to save lives and manage migration in an orderly way and I’m happy that we can do this together with Morocco and together with Spain,” Ms Johansson added.

Videos of the June deaths showing men lying on the ground and bleeding as Moroccan officers stood over them sparked public outrage and condemnation from a United Nations chief official.

Other images showed groups of men climbing a fence while hurling rocks at Moroccan anti-riot police and then collapsing on the ground.

Melilla and Ceuta are Spain's two tiny North African enclaves. As the EU's only land borders with Africa, they are a magnet for migrants.

Spain has previously accused Rabat of using migration as a tactic to exert political pressure.

In March this year, Spain ended a year-long diplomatic crisis by backing Morocco's autonomy plan for western Sahara, going back on its decades-long stance of neutrality.

Over the years, thousands of migrants have attempted to cross the 12-kilometre border between Melilla and Morocco, or Ceuta's eight-kilometre border, by climbing fences, swimming along the coast or hiding in vehicles.

The two territories are protected by fences fortified with barbed wire, video cameras and watchtowers.

Migrants sometimes use hooks and sticks to try to climb the border fence and throw stones at police.

Updated: July 09, 2022, 7:42 AM