World
Spain denies targeting migrants with rubber bullets
Publish Date: Feb 08, 2014
Spain denies targeting migrants with rubber bullets
A picture taken on February 6, 2014 shows cars waiting to cross the border from Morocco to Spains north African enclave of Ceuta. PHOTO/AFP
  • mail
  • img
newvision

MADRID - Spain on Friday denied its security forces had fired rubber bullets at migrants trying to swim to Spanish soil, after nine Africans drowned in the attempt.

The nine, including one woman, drowned on Thursday while trying to reach the Spanish territory of Ceuta from a beach in neighbouring Morocco. Other migrants tried to storm through a land checkpoint.

Spanish media and rights groups cited migrants alleging that police fired into the sea where the Africans were swimming as Moroccan and Spanish security forces tried to repel them from Ceuta.

Spanish authorities said civil guards in Ceuta used rubber bullets to ward off the migrants but that they fired them in the air and did not target anyone directly.

"We did not use anti-riot equipment when the immigrants were in the water," said the head of the Spanish government's delegation in Ceuta, Francisco Antonio Gonzalez, speaking on the radio on Friday.

In Morocco the head of the Northern Human Rights Observatory, Mohamed Benaissa, told AFP on Thursday that several migrants were hurt as Spanish police tried to repel them. He said most of the migrants were from Cameroon.

The Spanish government delegation said late Thursday that "rubber bullets were fired in the air, over a six-metre fence, never against people", by Spanish police to ward off the migrants trying to cross by land.

Morocco, under pressure from Spain, is trying to stem a stream of sub-Saharan African migrants, who head to its northern shores in a desperate quest to reach mainland Europe.

Ceuta and Spain's other north African enclave, Melilla, have the European Union's only land borders with Africa.

Hundreds of migrants headed out from the Moroccan town of Fnideq in a mass attempt to cross or circumvent the six-metre (20-foot) fences that mark the land border with Ceuta on Thursday, officials on both sides said.

Gonzalez said the migrants were "very violent" and threw rocks at the Moroccan and Spanish security forces.

A Spanish refugees' rights association, Caminando Fronteras, said it had spoken to injured migrants who described the actions of the Spanish forces.

"They said the civil guards fired plastic bullets to burst the floats being used by the migrants, many of whom don't know how to swim," a member of the association, Helena Maleno, told AFP by telephone.

She said migrants had thrown stones at the police in anger after seeing the dead bodies of some of their companions.

'Great sadness'

A spokeswoman in Spain for the United Nations refugee watchdog UNHCR, Maria Jesus Vega, expressed "dismay and great sadness" at the deaths.

"It worries us that people who need international protection and are risking their lives to get to safe countries, are losing them trying to enter the countries of the European Union."

Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said: "We regret these deaths and above all the tragedy that caused them."

Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz has asked to appear before parliament to discuss the deaths, Saenz told a weekly news conference after a cabinet meeting.

The opposition Socialist Party had earlier demanded Fernandez go before parliament, while the United Left party went further, demanding the minister resign and that an international enquiry be carried out.

"Along with the European Union, we have to keep working hard on a policy not only in the short and medium-term but in the long term, to avoid tragedies like this happening," she said.

AFP

The statements, comments, or opinions expressed through the use of New Vision Online are those of their respective authors, who are solely responsible for them, and do not necessarily represent the views held by the staff and management of New Vision Online.

New Vision Online reserves the right to moderate, publish or delete a post without warning or consultation with the author.Find out why we moderate comments. For any questions please contact digital@newvision.co.ug

  • mail
  • img
blog comments powered by Disqus
Also In This Section
Nuns go public for first time in 150 years
A group of Ecuadoran nuns opened the doors of their convent to the outside world Saturday - a first since the order arrived in the South American country 150 years ago....
Obama’s cool-in-a-crisis style – asset or liability?
Obama''s cool-in-a-crisis style and disdain for the impulsive use of military force is fueling criticism of his leadership....
Ukraine rebels prepare attack as EU warns Russia of new sanctions
Pro-Russian separatists were preparing a fresh offensive on a key coastal location in eastern Ukraine on Sunday, as EU leaders gave Moscow one week to curb its support for the rebels or face new sanctions....
EU readies new Russia sanctions as Ukraine conflict spirals
The European Union geared up a fresh wave of sanctions against Russia on Saturday with warnings that the escalating conflict in Ukraine was putting all of Europe at risk of war....
Deadly Ebola hits 5th West African nation
The deadly Ebola epidemic has spread to a fifth country in West Africa with the first confirmed case of the deadly virus in Senegal....
UN chief slams
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has slammed "brutal killings of civilians" by Islamic State jihadists in northern Iraq, saying the Sunni radical group was tearing apart whole communities....
Do you think banning the sale of single cigarette sticks will help regulate tobacco production?
yes
No
Can't Say
follow us
subscribe to our news letter