The lack of safe and legal migration channels has led thousands of migrants and asylum seekers, many of them fleeing conflict and extreme poverty in sub-Saharan countries and others increasingly arriving from Syria or Palestine, to attempt to scale the fences in the two Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in Northern Africa.
On June 24, 2022, between 1,300 and 2,000 men, mostly Sudanese and South Sudanese, attempted to climb the 6- to 10-metre chain-link fences surrounding Melilla and separating the Moroccan and Spanish territories. The sudden influx caused a fatal stampede in which at least 23 people reportedly died and dozens were injured, while 133 managed to enter Spain and were received in the extremely overcrowded temporary migrant holding centre (CETI).
This latest collective passage of the wall and the push back has once again made evident the challenges faced by migrants and those seeking international protection. Episcopal Conferences, UN agencies, NGOs, and faith based organisations joined their voices in asking Spanish and Moroccan governments to conduct an independent investigation of the incident.
In a statement released just after the tragic incident, the Spanish Bishops’ Conference also expressed the need to address the crisis from the perspective of the Social Doctrine of the Church, taking into account the need for protection of every human being, while asking for “legal and safe channels, as well as development cooperation with countries suffering from war, conflict and famine”.
In another statement, COMECE condemned the use of violence by people trying to cross borders and also called for “a proportionate use of force by law enforcement agents and the absolute respect of the human dignity and the fundamental rights of migrants and refugees, as well as the facilitation of an appropriate screening of persons that are legitimate asylum seekers.” While on June 28, the Holy Father expressed his sorrow for the tragedy, invoking the Lord to “open our hearts so these misfortunes never happen again.”
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