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Madrid denies migrants died on Spanish side of border

Madrid on Monday denied that migrants had died on Spanish soil during a deadly mass border crossing from Morocco earlier this year as claimed by a BBC documentary.

On June 24, Spanish authorities said up to 2,000 migrants took part in the attempt to storm the border fence between Morocco and Spain’s North African enclave of Melilla, and clashed with border officers.

Others put the death toll higher, with independent experts appointed by the United Nations human rights office saying last week that at least 37 people died and dozens more were injured.

Last Tuesday, British broadcaster BBC released a documentary that claimed lifeless bodies were dragged by Moroccan police from an area that was Spanish-controlled, casting doubt on official government accounts.

“There was no death on Spanish territory,” Spain’s Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska told reporters when asked about the documentary during a visit to the central town of Cuenca.

“State security forces acted within the law, with proportionality and necessity,” he added.

The minister said 50 Spanish Guardia Civil police officers were injured in the incident, which he called a “violent attack of the border, which is a European Union border.”

The United Nations and rights groups have denounced the use of “excessive force” by the authorities on both sides of the border.

But both Spanish and Moroccan authorities have repeatedly defended their actions saying the migrants had been violent and that reasonable force had been used.

The Spanish enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta have long been a magnet for people fleeing violence and poverty across Africa, seeking refuge via the continent’s only land borders with the European Union.