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Moroccan rights group demands inquiry into death of migrant

A Moroccan human rights organisation on Friday called for an inquiry into the death of a young migrant who was trying to reach the Spanish enclave of Ceuta this week.

The body of 20-year-old Saber Azouz was found in the sea on Thursday and his family said “traces of blood were found on his clothes”, according to the North Observatory for Human Rights (ONDH).

More than 8,000 migrants swam or used small inflatable boats to cross into Spain’s Ceuta territory from Monday as the Moroccan border forces looked the other way, taking Spanish authorities by surprise and raising tensions between Madrid and Rabat.

Madrid has since sent more than 6,000 of those migrants back and stopped new entries into Ceuta.

Spanish authorities have reported two drownings during the influx.

The rights group “demands clarity on the deliberate death of this defenceless migrant”, it said in a statement on its Facebook page.

It alleged that Spanish forces were responsible but also blamed Morocco for failing to provide “a decent life to its citizens”, adding that Rabat had “exploited migration for political ends”.

Ceuta and Spain’s other North African enclave, Melilla, have the European Union’s only land borders with Africa and have long been a magnet for migrants seeking a better life in Europe.

The wave of migrants came as tensions simmered between Spain and Morocco over Madrid’s decision to provide medical treatment for the ailing leader of the Western Sahara independence movement, who has Covid-19.

Rights group Amnesty International says that “asylum seekers and migrants are being used as pawns in a political game between Morocco and Spain”.

“People, including children, have been subjected to violence by Spanish security forces and the army, including being thrown into the sea, after Morocco opened its borders,” Amnesty said this week.

“Spanish authorities must open a thorough investigation and ensure accountability,” Amnesty’s Virginia Alvarez said in a statement.