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Spanish PM blames traffickers, migrants for deaths at border

Migration Spain Morocco
Posted at 4:02 PM, Jun 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-28 16:02:09-04

Spain's prime minister is defending the way Moroccan and Spanish police repelled migrants last week as they tried to cross the shared border into the north African enclave of Melilla.

Pedro Sánchez again depicted the crossing attempt in which at least 23 people died as "an attack on Spain's borders." Authorities in Morocco have blamed the deaths on a "stampede." Nonprofits and human rights groups have deplored the treatment the migrants received at the hands of police on both sides.

But they have also accused Spanish and European Union officials of outsourcing border controls to Morocco and other Mediterranean states. Sánchez has been trying to improve ties with Morocco following an acrimonious diplomatic dispute over Western Sahara.

“We must remember that many of these migrants attacked Spain’s borders with axes and hooks,” Prime Minister Sánchez said during an interview on Monday. “We are talking about an attempt to assault the fence that was evidently carried out in an aggressive way, and therefore what Spain’s state security forces and Moroccan guards did was defend Spain’s borders.”

U.S. President Joe Biden opened a three-day visit to a NATO summit by pledging to beef up the American military presence in Europe. The president met with Prime Minister Sánchez and denounced Russia’s Vladimir Putin for trying to “wipe out” Ukrainian culture in the ongoing war in eastern Europe. The U.S. president also detailed plans to increase the number of Navy destroyers based in Rota, Spain, from four to six.

Biden says the move is one of multiple announcements that he and NATO allies will make to help bolster the alliance in the region during the summit.