On the eve of a new EU migration agreement, it is essential to remember the impact of necropolitics on border control and externalisation. The Melilla massacre is a clear example of practices that result in serious human rights violations for people on the move.
Last June marked the first anniversary of one of the most visible and terrible massacres to have taken place at European borders. We were in Melilla, remembering the massacre on 27 June 2022.
The political practices of externalisation had a lethal impact on many people’s lives: 77 missing victims and at least 40 confirmed deaths. Hundreds of young people live today with physical and mental scars from the violence they suffered, and families suffer daily torture for the death and disappearance of their loved ones.
Unfortunately, impunity in the face of border violence has become established and is allowing European states to continue to move towards policies that will increase human rights violations at borders.
The European Union is meeting in Granada with migratory postulates to reinforce externalisation and its agreements with third countries towards greater militarisation of border areas. These proposals directly attack the right to asylum and put the criminalisation of migrant defenders on the agenda.
We know that even more difficult times will come so, today, we also want to remember that a movement of people, families and organisations will continue to defend life every day, weaving networks of resistance like those generated on 24J in the city of Melilla.
We encourage you to watch the video summary of the 24J event. Ir will help us to understand where necropolitics is taking us and enhance our ability to combat violence.
In the framework of the 25th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Women Human Rights Defenders, Caminando Fronteras participated in advocacy, awareness-raising and denunciation actions with women human rights defenders from different parts of the world.
Networking with women defenders from Honduras, Guatemala, the Philippines, Ukraine, Nicaragua, Armenia, Myanmar, Egypt, Kenya and Zambia, we have worked to make visible the specific patterns of criminalisation suffered by women defenders in different parts of the world. This meeting has allowed us to strengthen our alliances with people and organisations with whom we share objectives and values in the struggle to guarantee the right to defend rights.
Our current state of affairs have been expounded in the working groups on Discrimination against Women and Girls and Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances, whose work has been fed with valuable information that our organisations contribute from the field.
The United Nations Rapporteurs on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, on the fight against terrorism, and women human rights defenders; the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families; and the Committee on the Rights of the Child, have listened to the problems of the different regions and the situations of harassment and criminalisation suffered by women human rights defenders.
As Caminando Fronteras, we have shared the work of the struggle on the western border of Europe and Africa, where the right to life is violated daily. It has been essential to bring to the United Nations headquarters the responsibility of the states of the global north in the human rights violations of people on the move. To this end, our colleague Helena Maleno, a defender criminalised and persecuted by the Spanish state and Morocco, had the opportunity to participate in the Women on the Front Line round table held at the Palais Nations.
In her speech, she offered our perspective on the violation of rights at the border, the economic interests behind necropolitics and the criminalisation processes orchestrated by states to attack human rights defenders, especially when they are women.
We continue to weave networks of global justice for the defence of life.
On 9 May, for the first time, we had the opportunity to listen, in the same forum, to relatives of people who have disappeared at the border, specialists and representatives of international organisations who participated in the 1st International Congress of Families of Victims of Borders.
The 160 places available in the auditorium of La Casa Encendida (Madrid) were sold out a few days after the event was launched. Due to this large influx and the interest generated by the topics that were addressed, the debate between participants and the public was lively at all times, with a constant exchange of testimonies, proposals, demands and suggestions to resolve the difficulties encountered by relatives in the process of searching for and recognising their loved ones.
The event was followed live on our Instagram and Twitter channels, where the most outstanding testimonies from each discussion table were collected. In total, all the publications we generated around the congress achieved a reach of more than 800,000 impressions, a figure that shows the interest aroused by a completely invisible reality due to border control policies.
Those in the room were joined by all those who followed the conference via streaming. Almost 1,000 views were accumulated by the broadcast in Spanish and 500 in French.
At the congress, the families demanded that states fulfil their obligations and respect the rights of those who have died and disappeared at borders. It also became clear that the networks that the families are weaving are leading processes of truth and justice in the face of border necropolitics.
Particular requests were made: more explicit and more transparent procedures for filing a missing persons report at police stations, improved identification of corpses that appear at the border, better databases for post-mortem and ante-mortem comparisons, dignified burials, facilitation of identification processes other than DNA, involvement of consulates and embassies in origin in accompanying families, as well as the facilitation of visas for transnational searches. Without these protocols, families are at the mercy of misinformation and hoaxes; and they continue to suffer a violation of their fundamental rights, as they, too, are victims of border policies.
Some of the most outstanding interventions we were able to hear were:
“Organised families, taking many risks, are central actors in the search for justice. This does not happen in other crimes”.
Pablo Ceriani, United Nations Committee on Migrant Rights and their Families.
“In many countries, there is a regression. Barriers are being raised for people to migrate regularly. This creates more dangerous routes.”
Felipe Gonzalez, UN Rapporteur on Migrants.
“The means, engines, and canoes may change, but the story is always the same to the millimetre. People have been at sea for five days, and the first contact with a European authority is with Frontex because they will interrogate them”.
Abdallah, a family member of a missing person.
“If the embassies of our countries were involved in the search for the missing, all the processes would be simpler. Families cannot identify the bodies, come to say goodbye or bury them in their place of origin.”
Abdou Kane, Spokesperson Here We Are Migrating.
“There are no projects to search for the disappeared because they do not want to recognise that migration policies are unjust and take many lives”.
Mamadou Mouctar Bah, community leader.
“The families of migrants suffer pain, stigmatisation and denial of access to the remains of their relatives, something that the victims of Franco’s regime also suffered. Our first achievement was to break the silence. To put victims who were invisible on the table to begin to create security and protocols in the search for the victims”.
Almudena García-Rubio Ruiz, researcher at the Aranzadi Science Society.
“The families of the victims of the borders have the right to be considered victims, to know what happened, to search, to participate in the investigation, to bury their relatives…”.
Patricia Fernández Vicens, lawyer and advocate for migrants’ rights.
“The main reason for illegal migration is that it is impossible to get a legal visa, so people pay thousands of euros to get on a boat and risk their lives to migrate. A humane migration policy is possible.”
Ione Belarra, Minister for Social Rights and Agenda 2030.
“I am the voice of many mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters. They cannot be here. I am only the body, but the soul is also here: all the mothers and fathers”
Katya, a victim’s relative.
“The morgues on the coasts are full of bodies; for every one of them, a desperate family is looking for them; more could be done to help them; we could work with their DNA”
We travelled to Senegal to continue weaving transnational networks with relatives of border victims. During this visit, the collective aimed to share space and time with families we have accompanied in the search for their loved ones over the last few years. We wanted to have the opportunity to look at each other and understand what has happened in their lives after such a terrible loss, having the opportunity to discuss their needs and strategies of resistance.
In this country, we have also met with social organisations that have shown us their vision of the context and the challenges they face in accompanying reparation and justice processes. These spaces are fundamental for sharing and structuring in an increasingly solid way the struggle against the violence generated by the policies of death established at the border.
Senegal is the origin of the deadliest migratory route to the Spanish state: more than 7,000 people have died trying to reach the Canary Islands since 2018, according to the data we have documented in Caminando Fronteras. We are facing one of the most dangerous migratory journeys in the world.
Many of these people disappeared at sea, causing more significant pain among their relatives, who have not even had the opportunity to recover their bodies and bury them in their communities. This is one of the reasons why this trip has been so crucial for us, as it allows us to continue denouncing injustices such as the omission of relief or the administrative obstacles that continue to prevent the identification of the bodies.
During the days we spent in Senegal, we strengthened ties with families and communities and learned from them to improve the accompaniment we provide in the processes of seeking justice, truth and reparation.
With the families at the centre and the memory of the victims as our support, we will continue to fight against the border regime that causes so much pain.
On Thursday, 16 February 2023, the IV Desalambre Awards gala was held in Madrid. These awards, organised by Eldiario.es, recognise the work of activists, organisations and journalists committed to defending human rights. The work of Ca-Minando Fronteras was awarded in the category of best documentation work for the report “Monitoring the right to life on the Euro-African Western Border”.
This report carried out within the framework of our Human Rights Observatory since 2015, is considered the most reliable source for counting the number of people killed and missing on the way to Europe, especially on the maritime routes. During the awards ceremony, the head of the Desalambre section at Eldiario.es, Gabriela Sánchez, highlighted the high quality of the data provided by the group, which has become the best reference for the media when it comes to reporting on the tragedies and violations of rights occurring at the border.
Our colleagues Helena Maleno, Lucas Vaquero and Erika Guilabert accepted the award, thanking everyone who made it possible to compile such valuable information. In our speech, we had words for the families who do not give up in the search for their loved ones; the communities on the move who show us the reality of life on the frontiers of death; the victims themselves, whose memory inspires our struggle; and the compañeras who have been part of our network at some point over the last 20 years.
Thank you to all of them and to all of you who are always there. This award is also yours.
Watch the video of the award ceremony and Helena Maleno’s full speech.
The Spanish Association of Anthropology and Forensic Odontology (aeaof.com) dedicates the sixth issue of its periodical to deaths at the border. From different perspectives, it analyses the context of this reality and describes the multidisciplinary challenges for recognising the rights of victims and their families.
We contribute to this reflection with an article signed by the collective: Dead and missing persons on the Western European-African border: forgotten rights, denied rights (pp. 18-26).
We are grateful for the work of the AEAOF in the search for alternatives from different spheres of responsibility in the face of the reality of the deaths and disappearances of migrants at the border, recognising the commitment of the organisation and its members to human rights and networking from different spheres.
Our collective has prepared an article for this publication that represents a synthesis of our lessons learned during more than twenty years of experience searching for missing persons on the Western Euro-African Border.
In this monograph, we offer an overview of the current situation of migratory movements and how they are impacted by policies that have turned the land and sea borders between Spain and Africa into spaces of impunity and violation of rights.
Next, we analyse the deaths and disappearances of people on the move based on the quantitative and qualitative research carried out by our organisation and the existing difficulties in identifying the bodies of migrants who have arrived in Spain. Subsequently, we study the specific violence and the profound psychosocial impact that these deaths and disappearances have on the families in the countries of origin and the communities of people on the move.
Our writing includes the different experiences of resistance and collective organisation woven at the community level by families and communities to initiate processes of truth, justice, reparation and non-repetition. In conclusion, we present the theoretical and practical keys that should underpin accompaniment in terms of rights and human rights for all victims of the border and their families and communities.
The magazine can be downloaded in full here.
Are you looking for a family member or acquaintance who has disappeared on a migratory route? If so, contact us here.
The report summarises the last five years of work by our Observatory of Human Rights on the Western Euro-African Border.
At the end of each year, Ca-minando Fronteras takes stock of the current situation for migrants. We publish an annual report containing data on the victims of migration policies during that year: people who have gone missing or died while migrating to Europe, boats that have capsized, countries of origin and routes where hundreds of people are lost forever. In 2022, we decided to adopt a slightly different perspective. We published an update on the numbers of victims of the western Euro-African border between 2018 and 2022 (up to 30 November 2022) and conducted a diachronic analysis that reveals the impacts of contemporary necropolitics.
The ‘Victims of the Necrofrontier 2018-2022’ report will be presented at two events: the first will be held in Barcelona on 19 December and the second in Pamplona on 21 December.
Voces desde la Frontera, en el Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona
Presentación internacional del informe ‘Víctimas de la necrofrontera 2018-2022’: un abordaje cuantitativo de los datos recabados por nuestro Observatorio de Derechos Humanos en los últimos cinco años, así como de un análisis cualitativo del efecto de las políticas migratorias contemporáneas en las personas migrantes y sus familiares. Con la participación de Helena Maleno (fundadora de Ca-minando Fronteras), Soda Niasse (activista por los derechos humanos) y Oussman Ba (responsable del equipo psicosocial de la Delegación Diocesana de Migraciones). Modera la investigadora Blanca Garcés.
Cuándo: 19 de diciembre de 2022, 18:30h
Dónde: CCCB, Barcelona. Carrer de Montealegre, 5.
Extra: Habrá streaming con traducción simultánea en castellano y catalán.
Víctimas de la necrofrontera 2018-2022. Por la memoria y la justicia, en el Centro Cultural Fundación Caja Navarra de Pamplona
«¿Cuáles son las cifras que perpetúan las muertes en la frontera y cuáles son las que sirven para defender la vida? La observación de la realidad en la Frontera Occidental Euroafricana no es neutra y quienes se acercan al conocimiento desde una perspectiva de defensa de la vida se encuentran inmediatamente con los derechos de las víctimas y sus familias», explicamos en el informe para dar cuenta de la importancia de contar a las víctimas de las fronteras con herramientas cuantitativas y cualitativas.
Compartiremos el informe en un diálogo con las organizaciones SOS Racismo Nafarroa y Ongi Etorri Errefuxiatuak y debatiremos sobre Frontera Sur, Frontera Norte, racismo y necropolítica. Participan Helena Maleno (fundadora de Ca-minando Fronteras), Maite Santamaría (Ongi Etorri Errefuxiatuak) y Beatriz Villahizán (SOS Racismo Nafarroa).
Cuándo: 21 de diciembre de 2022, 18:00h.
Dónde: CIVICAN, Pamplona. Av. de Pío XII, 2.
Extra: Nuestra compañera Helena Maleno estará presente en una rueda de prensa que tendrá lugar en la mañana, previa a la presentación del informe. Lugar y hora por confirmar.
On 8 November 2022, two boats set off from Boumerdès (Algeria) for Cabrera in the Balearic Islands. One of them departed at 07:00 (UTC) with 26 Algerian men on board. The other carried 21 migrant men (12 Algerians and nine sub-Saharan Africans).
Several weeks later, a community leader informed us that both boats had gone missing; we immediately passed the information on to Salvamento Marítimo in the Balearic Islands. The rescue services informed us that they had already received the alert and explained the action that had been taken: a passive search for the vessel, a simulation to try to identify the areas where it might be and an alert issued to other boats currently in the area. At that time, the boat had still not been found but they continued to alert nearby vessels. Four weeks have now passed since the boat set off from the Algerian coast.
We continue to search for the two boats but no further information has yet become available. As part of the Right to Life area of our work, we call for greater effort and coordination to search for migrant people who go missing at the border.
Are you looking for a relative or a friend who has gone missing while attempting to migrate? If so, you can contact us here.
In response to the death of a young migrant woman at a beach in Akhfennir following an operation by Moroccan police forces.
According to witnesses, on Monday 12 September, a young migrant woman died of gunshot wounds to the chest as the Moroccan police attempted to stop the boat that she and other migrant people were about to board to cross to Spain from entering the water. She was part of a group of 35 people from Morocco and sub-Saharan Africa, who were preparing to board a vessel on a beach located between Akhfennir and Tarfaya in Morocco.
When the authorities reached the site, they launched a violent operation to prevent the boat from departing and used real firearms against the migrant people waiting to board.
The young woman who died was not the only victim of this police violence. Several others from the group were admitted to hospital, including three young Moroccan men in a very serious condition. One of them, who is in intensive care, was shot in the back. Two young people were hit by a car as they tried to flee the site of the attack.
In light of the incident, the signatories to this statement would like to emphasise the following points:
The use of firearms against unarmed civilians points once again to the exponential rise in the use of force by the law enforcement agencies in their operations at the borders, where migrant people are viewed as a threat rather than as subjects of care and rights.
The absence of mechanisms to monitor and supervise police operations perpetuates the impunity surrounding the use of force against communities on the move, denying victims the right to reparation for the harm they have suffered and leaving them helpless against attacks on their physical, moral and psychological integrity.
The externalisation of border control to the Kingdom of Morocco by the European Union and the Spanish State, which was recently endorsed with 500 million euros from the EU budget (an increase of 44.5% on the previous year), continues to exacerbate the extreme vulnerability experienced by migrant people in these regions and systematically violates their fundamental right to life.
After the tragic deaths at the border fence in Melilla, we cannot continue to accept that human rights are conditional upon economic partnerships between countries.
Rest in peace. Truth, justice and reparation for the victims.
September 13, 2022.
This statement is open to new signatories. Please send the name of your organisation to email@example.com
CIEs no Madrid
Comisión de Derechos Humanos del Iltre Colegio de Abogados de Baleares
UPDATE: Forty victims confirmed. These figures are not final and may continue to rise. At the time of publication, 29 victims had been confirmed.
The tragic events at the border between Melilla and Nador in Morocco on 24 June 2022 are a violent reminder of the failings of security-focused migration policies. The 27 deaths and hundreds of wounded people, including migrants and Moroccan police officers, are the terrible outcome of European policy to externalise EU borders with the collusion of a country from the Global South, Morocco. The deaths of these young Africans at the gates of ‘Fortress Europe’ alert us to the deadly nature of the partnership on security and immigration between Morocco and Spain.
The conditions that paved the way for the tragedy on Friday 24 June had been brewing for several weeks. Mass detentions, raids on camps and forced displacement of migrant communities in Nador and the surrounding region foreshadowed the incident. The renewal of the agreement on migration control between Morocco and Spain in March 2022 has led to a proliferation of coordinated action between the two countries.
This action is accompanied by human rights violations targeting migrant people in the north (Nador, Tétouan and Tangier) and in Laayoune and Dakhla. The tragic incident is the direct result of a plan to exert pressure on refugees.
For more than a year and a half, migrants in Nador have seen their access to medicine and healthcare denied, their camps set on fire, their belongings plundered, their sparse food supplies destroyed and the little drinking water available in the camps confiscated.
These punitive operations have triggered spiralling violence on both sides. While this violence is reprehensible regardless of its source, it reminds us of the systematic violence suffered by migrant communities in Nador for years at the hands of Spanish and Moroccan law enforcement agencies. These practices have been condemned on numerous occasions by national and regional institutions and by the UN.
In response to this latest tragedy at the borders and given the large number of victims, which sadly looks set to rise, the signatories to this statement would like to express the following points:
We send our deepest condolences to the families of the victims from the migrant community and the police force.
We condemn the lack of prompt treatment for the wounded migrants, which increased the number of victims. We demand that all those hospitalised as a result of this tragedy receive appropriate, high-quality care.
We demand that the Moroccan authorities identify the victims and return their remains to their families by working with migrant communities.
We demand the immediate opening of a judicial investigation by Morocco, Spain and the international institutions to clarify the events leading up to this human tragedy.
We demand an end to the criminal policies funded by the European Union and its numerous accomplices, states, international institutions and civil society organisations that subcontract these criminal policies.
We call on the diplomatic representatives of African countries in Morocco to take full responsibility for protecting their citizens instead of remaining complicit with the policies in place.
We call on human rights and migrant rights organisations and movements to mobilise at this critical time, when the right to life is in greater jeopardy than ever.
25 June 2022, Rabat.
This statement is open to new signatories. Please send the name of your organisation to firstname.lastname@example.org.