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RIGHTS EXPERT EXPRESSES DEEP CONCERN OVER SITUATION OF MIGRANTS IN MOROCCO AND SPANISH ENCLAVES, URGES END TO COLLECTIVE DEPORTATIONS

12 October 2005

The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Dr. Jorge Bustamante, is deeply concerned over recent reports of deaths of migrants of sub-Saharan origin on the border between the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla and Morocco.

The deaths have occurred during attempts by large groups of migrants to enter Spanish territory by climbing over the fences that separate the enclaves from Morocco. On 29 September 2005, five persons died from gunfire after one such attempt. On October 6, six persons died, also as a result of bullet wounds. Security forces policing the border are reportedly responsible for the deaths.

The Special Rapporteur recalls principle 9 of the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, which provides, among other things, that law enforcement officials shall not use firearms against persons except in self-defence or defence of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury.

The Special Rapporteur requests the Governments of both countries to cooperate in carrying out a prompt transparent and independent investigation into the deaths.

The Special Rapporteur is also profoundly concerned over reports of collective deportations of migrants and asylum seekers carried out by Moroccan authorities. Many are migrants of sub-Saharan origin who had attempted to cross the border with Spain in Ceuta and Melilla. They are being deported and left on the southern border in the Sahara desert without water or food.

“Collective deportations are banned by Article 22 of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Their Families. This is a binding provision for Morocco, a State-party of the Convention”, said the Special Rapporteur. “Collective deportations in these conditions endanger the right to life”, he added.

“I urge the Moroccan Government to cease collective deportations as a matter of urgency”.

The Special Rapporteur said the situation in Morocco and the Spanish enclaves is not just a problem of border control. “Migration is a much more complicated phenomenon than just preventing people from crossing borders. We have to put people and their rights at the centre of our decisions, policies and measures, and advocate consistently for a human rights approach to migration”.