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GENEVA (28 June 2022) – The UN Committee on Migrant Workers (CMW) on Tuesday deplored the incidents that led to the deaths of at least 23 migrants as they tried to cross the border from Morocco into the Spanish enclave of Melilla last Friday.

It is yet to be determined whether the victims died falling from the fence, in a stampede, or as a result of any actions taken by the border control officers. The independent experts urged the two States to carry out immediate and thorough investigations and to hold those responsible to account. To avoid the repetition of such tragedies, the Committee also asked Morocco, Spain and the other EU States to expand the availability of pathways for safe and orderly migration, and take measures to guarantee and respect the right to seek and receive asylum.

The Committee issued the following media statement:

“We are appalled by the deaths of these migrants who intended to cross the border to seek a better life based on their legitimate human rights.

We express our grave concern and deep sadness over this tragedy. We deplore the violations of the right to life, which is enshrined in the International Convention on Migrant Workers. Based on the information we have gathered, we remind all States that migrants shall not be subjected to any cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. States must also guarantee that all policies and practices at borders effectively respect all human rights obligations, ensuring the right to life, dignity, security and physical integrity of migrants in all circumstances.

We also regret that there are wounded migrants and security forces officers, while it remains unclear whether minors are among those injured.

Our deepest condolences go out to the families of the victims. We share their sorrow. The tragedy could have been avoided if a comprehensive rights-based approach had been incorporated in border policies.

We urge the Moroccan and the Spanish Governments to conduct prompt, thorough, independent, impartial and transparent investigations into these deaths and to determine the corresponding responsibilities. In addition, measures should be taken to ensure access to justice for victims and their families. The authorities should also provide full reparation for the human rights violations, including breaches of the non-refoulement principle by arbitrary pushbacks.

In particular, the Moroccan Government is required to preserve the bodies of the deceased, fully identify them and inform their families, and provide the necessary support for the transfer of the bodies. As for the injured, they should be given essential medical care for their prompt recovery.

We call on all States to respect the human rights of migrants, including asylum seekers, to fulfil their obligations to the International Convention, and to comply with the Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights at International Borders, and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, which was adopted in Marrakech, Morocco.

We take this opportunity to call on the international community and States to ensure that such events do not happen again. We also emphasise that detention is an exceptional measure of last resort that, if used, must be compatible with the criteria of responsibility, necessity and proportionality, as recalled in the Committee’s  General Comment No. 5 (2021) on migrants’ rights to liberty, freedom from arbitrary detention and their intersection with other human rights. The use of public force in the case of detention must also be proportionate and must respect, at all times, the human rights of people in the context of migration.

We urge all the concerned Governments of host and transit countries to treat the migrants with security, dignity and humanity in conformity with their international obligations.”