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EU, Morocco announce joint anti-trafficking effort

July 8, 2022

The agreement came after 23 people died and dozens more were injured when thousands of refugees rushed at the border between Morocco and Melilla, Spain.

Refugees arrive on Spanish soil in Melilla
Refugees arrive on Spanish soil in MelillaImage: Javier Bernardo/AP/dpa/picture alliance

Morocco and the European Union agreed on Friday to work closely together to combat human trafficking. The joint statement came after 23 refugees died in a rush on the border between Morocco and the Spanish exclave of Melillalast month.

Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska, European Union Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson and Moroccan Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit met in Rabat to discuss how to address what they said were "new strategies" used by migrants and traffickers to try and reach European soil.

"Morocco is a strategic partner, a committed partner of the EU when it comes to managing migration in an orderly way. And we stand ready to deepening our cooperation... working together in effective and efficient readmissions and returns and investing in legal pathways together," Johansson said in a statement.

The new agreement will include support for border management, strengthening police cooperation and strengthening cooperation between Moroccan and EU agencies, a statement said.

Morocco accused of 'unjustified' force

The tragedy in Melilla occured at the end of June, when some 2,000 people hoping to seek asylum in the European Union ran towards the border, triggering two hours of violent skirmishes with Moroccan border security.

After around 100 people made it across the border, images emerged of dozens of badly injured and deceased refugees stacked next to the fence.

Morocco has said that the 23 who perished were killed in a stampede or died trying to mount the fence.

According to local human rights workers, however, the death toll rose so high because many injured people lay for hours without medical help. They have also accused Morocco of an "unjustified" use of force.

The United Nations and human rights NGOs have called for an independent probe into the clashes, while Moroccan and Spanish prosecutors opened their own inquiries.

Shortly after the incident, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez accused smuggling mafias of having organised the assault and thanked the Moroccan security forces for their help policing the border.

"It is important that we address these dangerous situations and these well-organized smuggling groups together to save lives and to manage migration in an orderly way," Johansson said.

es/jcg (AFP, Reuters)