Madrid, December 23 (AP) The Spanish prosecutor’s office has abandoned the investigation into the death of more than 20 migrants last June on the border between Morocco and the Spanish enclave city of Melilla, saying in a statement Friday that they have not found indications of criminal behavior by Spanish security forces.
Prosecutors said they spent six months investigating what happened when hundreds of migrants — some estimates say as many as 2,000 — stormed the Melilla border fence in northwest Africa from the Moroccan side in an attempt to reach European soil.
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At least 23 migrants were officially reported dead, although rights groups say the number was higher.
The Spanish prosecutor’s office said that “it cannot be concluded that the conduct of the (Spanish) security officers involved increases the threat to the life and well-being of the immigrants, so no charge of reckless homicide can be brought “.
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The migrants were “hostile and violent,” the prosecutor’s statement said.
Hundreds of men, some with sticks, scaled the fence from Moroccan territory and were confined to a border crossing area.
When they managed to break down the door on the Spanish side, it seems that a stampede caused many people to be crushed.
Moroccan police fired tear gas and beat men with batons, even when some were on the ground.
Spanish guards surrounded a group that managed to get through before apparently sending them back.
The clash ended with African men, clearly injured or even dead, piled on top of each other as Moroccan police in riot gear looked on.
Spanish prosecutors said that “at no time did the (Spanish) security officers have reason to believe that there were people at risk who needed help.”
The Spanish security agents who returned 470 of the immigrants to Morocco did so in accordance with their duty and in accordance with Spanish immigration law, according to the statement.
So-called “returns” — the forced return of people across an international border without an assessment of their rights to seek asylum or other protection, in violation of both international and EU law — are a contentious issue in europe
Prosecutors blamed some security officers for throwing rocks at the immigrants and recommended disciplinary proceedings against them.
Amnesty International said earlier this month that the handling of the investigation by Spain and Morocco, which have remained largely silent on the matter, “reeks of cover-up and racism”. (AP)
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