Thank you for organising this important debate.
My thoughts today are with the people who died in Melilla.
And with those who were injured. And with their families.
I’ll never forget the images of the dead and living.
Loss of life at the European border is unacceptable
Violence at our EU border is unacceptable.
The facts as we know today are:
On Friday 24 June.
Up to 2500 people tried to force their way into Spain
23 migrants confirmed dead, but I am afraid there might be even more casualties.
A lot more are injured.
Not only migrants, but also a high number of law enforcement officers. Who were put under great pressure.
We also know 134 people arrived in the Melilla migration centre in Spain.
Mostly from Sudan
Many of them are young, possibly minors.
Most have stated their intention to apply for asylum
It’s very difficult to know exactly what happened on that black Friday.
But what we know for now:
The migrants tried to cross at a border crossing in Nador reserved for local residents.
This crossing has four narrow corridors.
A large crowd entered at once, causing a stampede.
Crushing many of these young men and boys to death.
Others fell to their deaths from a 6 metre high wall.
It’s unacceptable that people try to force themselves across the EU border, using violent means.
And it’s unacceptable, people die in this way at our EU border.
The priority is now to provide medical care, and fully establish the facts.
I strongly support calls by the United Nations and African Union for investigations into this tragic loss of life.
I welcome that in the meantime, the Spanish public prosecutor is carrying out an investigation.
And in Morocco, the National Human Rights Commission has launched an information mission.
What we can say is in general is that 99% of irregular migrants use smugglers.
That most migrants in Morocco have been smuggled.
It seems those involved in the incident were smuggled mainly from Sudan, through Libya and Algeria.
Through a desert that can be every bit as deadly as the Mediterranean or Atlantic.
A desert where smugglers leave people to die.
This is what I learnt directly from people when visiting Agadez in Niger.
Smugglers take people’s money and dump them along the route, and leave them to their fate.
Leaving them in such a hopeless situation, they commit such desperate acts.
We can only manage migration to Europe, if we engage with partners outside Europe along the routes.
Since the start of my mandate I have been building and working on strong migration partnerships with partner countries.
Countries of origin and transit and destination. In Africa, I visited Egypt, Ethiopia, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Tunisia, Morocco.
To build partnerships addressing the root causes of migration. So people don’t feel the need to risk their lives on dangerous journeys.
And to improve possibilities for legal migration.
And to fight the smugglers. Raising awareness about the dangers and boosting law enforcement cooperation. And supporting partners in border management.
Upholding fundamental rights is key to all of these partnerships.
Morocco is a key strategic partner of the European Union to manage migration and to fight smuggling.
This year alone, Morocco prevented 26,000 irregular departures – one tenth of them saved at sea.
We have a very good cooperation with Spain and I am in close contact with the Spanish government , and I intend to engage with Morocco further to discuss the tragic events in Melilla. And to further strengthen our comprehensive partnership on migration
In closing let me say.
First: Melilla once again shows that Europe needs the Pact on Migration and Asylum. We’re making good progress, let’s get it adopted in full.
Second: In all situations people must be treated with dignity and respect for fundamental rights.
Finally: Melilla is an alarm call.
More people will put their fate in the hands of smugglers. And embark on desperate, dangerous journeys.
We must do everything in our power. To save lives.
In partnership with countries of origin and transit.
And treat people with respect and according to their rights.