Spain in crisis talks with Morocco over migrant disaster

Hundreds got through, but scores were wounded and at least 11 were killed.

Stung by searing images of desperate migrants left in the barren land on the remote Algerian border, Morocco began at the weekend rounding up those it had earlier abandoned, to deport them to their countries of origin.

Rabat initially denied reports by the medical group Médecins sans Frontières that hundreds, including pregnant women, children and injured people, had been taken to remote desert regions without water or food and left to their fate.

But on Saturday, convoys of Moroccan police and military vehicles were transporting the Africans yet again, to Oujda on Morocco's northern border with Algeria, where Senegalese and Malians were to be flown home.

The fate of Africans from other countries, however, remained unclear, amid reports they were to be trucked to the western Sahara and abandoned yet again, to die of hunger and thirst.

Television images yesterday showed Africans brandishing empty water bottles in the desert as they were bundled into dilapidated buses. Many were handcuffed in pairs, their bandaged wounds still fresh from lacerations caused by efforts to storm the razor-wire frontiers of Spain's Moroccan enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. "We have nothing, and no idea where we're being taken," they said.

Amnesty International and other humanitarian groups yesterday denounced the mass expulsions as illegal. Esteban Beltran, Amnesty's director in Spain, said: "No immigrant can be deported unless he has been identified, with a lawyer present, and his case heard. Collective expulsions are contrary to international law and, if carried out with violence and the prospect of death, could be considered a crime against humanity."

Madrid has suspended the mass expulsions until Rabat guarantees they will be treated humanely.

The crisis goes far beyond relations between Spain and Morocco, and is likely to prompt a review of EU immigration policy. At present Europe's poorer southern countries carry the burden of coping with the massive inflows of impoverished Africans.

An EU technical team visited Ceuta yesterday to study a solution to the problem of human avalan-ches crashing through Spain's, that is Europe's, southern frontier. Immigrant holding centres in both cities are acutely overcrowded, with new arrivals housed in field tents, or in the open.

Faced with increased border security, Africans are expected to seek more perilous and expensive routes to Europe, including mafia-run boats to the Canary Islands.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there