Footage from the Melilla Border Shines a Spotlight on Spain’s Treatment of Migrants

The chain link fence separating Morocco from the Spanish-controlled city of Melilla attracts migrants from across Africa attempting to enter Europe, and it has come to symbolize fears and concerns about international migration and migrant rights within the European Union. That’s in no small part due to the work of a local migrant rights organization, Associación PRODEIN Melilla, which has documented the experiences of migrants and their treatment by the Spanish Civil Guard, which patrols the double-fence border.

Así defiende “ESPAÑA” el Ministerio del Interior (2) from Asociación Pro.De.In. Melilla on Vimeo.

PRODEIN’s latest video, taken on October 15, shows about a half dozen migrants scaling the fence, as a group of border guards awaits, swinging their batons at the young men as soon as they are within striking distance. Some of the guards actually scale the fence themselves to get closer to their targets. In the video above, we see officers knock one man to the ground, where he then appears to be unresponsive. Guards proceed to carry the man back through the border, where it appears they hand him to Moroccan authorities on the other side of the fence.

PRODEIN describes the authorities’ deportation of migrants in the video, “without care for their personal situation, their age, whether they wanted to ask for asylum or whether they were injured,” as “absolutely illegal,” and “a violation of European and international laws.”

The footage of border guards striking at unarmed migrants was shared across Spanish media and has drawn strong condemnation from Spain and beyond. The Commissioner of Human Rights for the European Council issued the following statement on its Facebook page.

The UN refugee agency also responded, stating that “the UNHCR recognizes the legitimacy of states to protect and guard their borders, but considers it essential that that is carried out in an environment free of violence and with full respect for human rights.”

A spokesperson for Melilla’s governing authorities is quoted in Europa Press stating that the migrant shown in the video was not injured but rather practicing passive resistance, and that many migrants had crossed the fence violently and spat at civil guards, shouting “ebola.”

For more this video and reaction to it, see this article on PeriodismoHumano, or follow Associación PRODEIN Melilla on Twitter.

This post was originally written for the Human Rights Channel, which is now the WITNESS Media Lab. Follow @WITNESS_Lab on Twitter for analysis and resources on the verification and contextualization of eyewitness video for human rights.

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