IMMIGRATION

Accountability needed for Ceuta tragedy, says Council of Europe official

Nils Muiznieks calls Spain´s explanation "confusing"

The Council of Europe's Human Rights Commissioner, Nils Muiznieks.
The Council of Europe's Human Rights Commissioner, Nils Muiznieks.

The Council of Europe is concerned about the way Spain is treating undocumented migrants attempting to cross its borders from Morocco.

In an interview with EL PAÍS, Human Rights Commissioner Nils Muiznieks explained that the people responsible for the February 6 incident in Ceuta must be held accountable for their actions.

That day, border police fired rubber bullets against a large group of migrants as they jumped into the water at Tarajal beach, after being repelled during an attempt to jump the fence separating Moroccan territory from this Spanish exclave. Fifteen sub-Saharans drowned. Spanish authorities claimed that Moroccan police were on the shore, preventing the migrants from reaching land.

But Muiznieks notes that the Spanish government’s explanations are “contradictory.”

“Some things are clear, such as the fact that they used rubber bullets,” he says. “There was some erroneous behavior by police forces. There is some confusion, although the government has made an effort to explain it.”

It is necessary to shed light on this episode and get those responsible to be held accountable”

But neither Muiznieks nor any other member of the Council of Europe - which works to promote co-operation between countries on the continent - has asked Spanish authorities directly about the events.

“There are ongoing discussions with Spain on the subject of repatriations in general. I am considering a visit to Ceuta and Melilla [two Spanish outposts surrounded by Moroccan territory] at some point. It is necessary to shed light on this episode and get those responsible to be held accountable for wrongful behavior,” Muiznieks added.

In late 2013, Muiznieks criticized Spain for reintroducing concertina wire on the Melilla border fence.

In recent weeks, sub-Saharan migrants have been attempting coordinated fence jumps in groups of several hundred individuals. The Spanish government has appealed to the EU for help policing the border, and is considering changing its laws to immediately deport migrants who make it over, rather than taking them to holding centers.

Due to a translation error, an earlier version of this story confused the Council of Europe with the European Union.

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