IMMIGRATION

Minister admits use of rubber bullets in Ceuta immigrant tragedy

Interior chief maintains authorities responded to “belligerent behavior” of sub-Saharans

No deaths caused by firing of weapons, Fernández Díaz claims

Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz in Congress on Thursday. / Paco Campos (EFE)

Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz acknowledged on Thursday that Civil Guard officers fired their anti-riot weapons last week in Ceuta when hundreds of migrants charged a border crossing between the exclave and Morocco. But, the minister added, the civil guards used the amount of force which was “strictly necessary” to stop a desperate attempt to reach Spanish territory.

Twelve bodies have been recovered after many of the sub-Saharan migrants ran into the sea in an attempt to swim or wade around a seawall marking the border. As many as 14 are believed to have died in the crush.

Speaking in Congress, Fernández Díaz defended the security force’s actions, calling them “proportional,” and explaining that it was in response to “the belligerent behavior” of the migrants. However, he said the police used their weapons in a “dissuasive” manner, claiming that no one had been killed as a result of their response.

The tragedy took place on February 6, when about 300 people jumped into the water at the exclave’s crossing at Tarajal.

No migrant was hit by the rubber bullets that were fired by police, the minister said. In fact, he said, police had helped some two dozen migrants reach safety in the Spanish exclave.

The minister appeared before the congressional Interior Committee at his own behest, even though the Socialists, Izquierda Plural, Union, Progress and Democracy (UPyD) and Mixed Group parliamentarians had demanded explanations.

Civil Guard chief Arsenio Fernández de Mesa met with officers in Ceuta on Wednesday, and described their actions as “impeccable.” He said that charges would be filed against those who assaulted the officers.

But some NGOs have released videos they say show some officers roughly treating sub-Saharans, while some migrants have claimed that they were fired upon while they were in the water.

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