As of: 06/27/2022 5:41 p.m
Up to 2,000 people tried to climb the border fence to the Spanish exclave of Melilla on Friday. Dozens died as a result. Prime Minister Sánchez’s reaction caused discussions in Spain.
After around 2,000 people tried to climb the border fence near Melilla on Friday and Moroccan and Spanish officials had done everything to prevent it, the Spanish head of government praised the operation: the security forces had solved the situation well, said Pedro Sánchez.
ARD Studio Madrid
The fact that he did not say a word about the fact that 18 deaths had initially been reported – aid organizations speak of 37 deaths – had brought criticism to the prime minister. In an interview in the daily newspaper “Vanguardia” today, he added empathy: The government regrets the loss of life of desperate people who, in search of a better life, have become victims of the smuggling mafia.
Paloma Favieres from the non-governmental organization CEAR, which campaigns for the rights of migrants, sees the migrants more as victims of a brutal and illegal police operation: “We saw Moroccan officials bringing migrants back to Morocco from Spanish soil.”
Tensions expected in the coalition
The events at the border fence and the Prime Minister’s reaction to them are also likely to cause tension in the governing coalition. At a press conference today, government spokesman Isabel Rodriguez took on all questions on the issue, although media representatives had approached Equality Minister Maria Jesus Montero of small coalition partner Unidas Podemos.
In order to prevent such events, it is necessary to fight the gangs of people smugglers, said the socialist Rodriguez, entirely in line with the prime minister.
Strong criticism in Parliament
The topic is not so easy to capture in Parliament. Pablo Echenique, spokesman for Unidas Podemos, said: “Migration control cannot result in dozens of deaths in front of our house.”
Not to mention the nearly 4,500 people who drowned last year alone trying to get past Frontex and other border controls to cross the sea to Spain.
Demand for radical isolation
And if there is criticism of the prime minister within the coalition, it’s no wonder that the opposition is also exploiting the Melilla tragedy. Esteban Gonzalez Pons, deputy general secretary of the conservative People’s Party, said: “First he welcomed the refugee ship Aquarius with open arms, then he praised a mission that resulted in numerous deaths.”
And the deputy head of the ultra-right party Vox, Jorge Buxadé, is almost cynically demanding an even more radical policy of isolation than before. According to Buxadé, this is the most effective means of preventing deaths at the border.
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