Spain has launched an investigation into reports of casualties among a group of migrants attempting to reach the Canary Islands from Africa. A charity, Walking Borders, claimed that Moroccan soldiers opened fire on the group, resulting in the death of at least one migrant. The Moroccan authorities have not yet responded to the allegations. Reuters has been unable to independently verify the incident.
Investigation and Reports
Spanish authorities are currently investigating the reports of injuries sustained by the migrants. The Walking Borders charity shared an account on Twitter, citing unidentified survivors who claimed that a migrant was killed. The incident allegedly took place as the group of more than 40 migrants tried to depart on a dinghy early on Tuesday morning.
Rescue and Recovery
Following the reported shooting, the migrants managed to set sail and were eventually rescued 12 miles south of Gran Canaria on Thursday night. Spanish helicopters and patrol boats were involved in the rescue operation. The migrants disclosed to rescuers that they had embarked from Boujdour, a small town in Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara, located 200 nautical miles south of the Canary Islands.
Contradictory Reports and Medical Care
While the Spanish government in the Canary Islands stated that there were no gunshot injuries among the arriving migrants, three individuals required medical care. The cases included a pregnant woman, another person described as “unwell,” and a third person with a “leg trauma.” However, a Spanish police source later revealed that one of the injured migrants had bullet exit and injury wounds, prompting further investigation.
Survivor Testimonies and Unclear Circumstances
Helena Maleno, the head of Walking Borders, stated that survivors who remained in Morocco informed her that soldiers on an anti-migration patrol fired multiple rounds at the boat, resulting in the death of a young Malian man who was shot in the neck. However, Jose Antonio Rodriguez Verona, an adviser on migration to the Canary Islands government, stated that the migrants reported two deaths caused by shots fired by what they described as an “anti-migration checkpoint” in Morocco. The exact details of the incident remain unclear, and the migrants who reached the Canary Islands did not identify who had opened fire.
Challenges and Concerns
Injuries to migrants are often attributed to disputes among trafficking gangs, as highlighted by rights groups and migrants previously interviewed by Reuters. However, Moroccan rights groups, including the CNDH state human rights council, have raised concerns about the increasing use of force by Moroccan authorities in controlling the migration flow from Africa to Europe. This incident adds to the ongoing challenges and risks faced by migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean.