'Melilla tragedy': 36 migrants survivors face charges at Moroccan court
On 24 June, a "dark Friday", more than twenty migrants were killed as dozens were injured during their attempt to reach the Spain-controlled enclave of Melilla from the Moroccan city of Nador.
Those who survived the massacre have been arrested and are now in danger of going to prison.
On Monday, 36 migrants, mainly from Sudan and Chad, faced Nador's court on charges of joining a human-trafficking gang, abuse of public officials, and detention of a public official.
The 36 migrants also face charges of purposefully burning the forest of Gorogo in Nador, a refuge for hundreds of migrants in the city.
The forest of Gorogo is situated near the border fence separating the northeastern city of Nador from Spain-controlled Melilla, which Rabat considers a Moroccan land controlled by Madrid.
In March, a fire erupted in the forest, where hundreds of migrants were sheltered, waiting for the opportunity to cross to Spain. The incident killed a woman and her two children.
من غراءب جلسة تقديم 29 مهاجر كلهم من السودان وواحد من التشاد اليوم بمحكمة الاستءناف بالناظور. القاضي انت متهم باضرام النار في الغابة.— AMDH Nador (@NadorAmdh) June 27, 2022
جواب المهاجر السوداني بلغة عربية فصحى: والله السيد القاضي انا واصدقاءي من عملنا على اطفاء النيران التي اشعلت بمخيمنا. pic.twitter.com/02Ji8Z6Ikj
At the time, the Moroccan Association of Human Rights (AMDH) blamed Moroccan authorities for the inhuman conditions under which the migrants lived in the forest.
Living mainly in plastic tents, migrants used fire to keep themselves warm during the winter.
Facing the court on Monday, the surviving 36 migrants of the "Melilla tragedy" denied the charges, stressing that they were the first to hurry to put out the fire when it started this past March.
The migrants will remain under arrest until another court session on 4 July 2022.
All available information about the "Melilla tragedy" has been shared mainly by the AMDH, whose evidence legally supports the case for the arrested migrants in the Moroccan court.
The latest Moroccan official update about the tragedy was last Friday when Moroccan authorities said more than 140 of their forces were injured during the clashes with around 2,000 "armed" migrants who stormed the borders early on Friday.
At least 500 people managed to enter a border control area after cutting a fence with shears, the Spanish government's local delegation said.
AMDH says at least 29 migrants were killed during Friday's events. For their part, the Spanish NGO Caminanndo Fronteras places the number of death higher, saying that at least 37 migrants were killed. Meanwhile, the UN said at least 23 migrants were killed in the "highest number of deaths in a single incident" over years at the migrant crossings between the countries.
The final death toll is likely to be much higher as dozens are reportedly still severely injured, added the Moroccan human rights group.
The UN, and more than forty Moroccan and Spanish NGOs, have called for an independent investigation.