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IMMIGRATION

Brussels: Spain must explain use of rubber bullets in migrant tragedy

Commissioner demands “clarification” on events at Ceuta border

The European Commission on Friday said it would demand explanations from Spain as to why authorities used rubber bullets to try to deter a large group of sub-Saharan migrants as they made a desperate attempt to enter Ceuta from Morocco on February 6.

Cecilia Malmström, the home affairs commissioner, said she was “very concerned about Spanish border police using rubber bullets to deter migrants in Ceuta.”

“I expect clarifications from the authorities,” she wrote on her Twitter account the day after Spain’s Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz admitted before a congressional committee that Civil Guard officers fired their anti-riot weapons in the direction of the migrants. He said that the civil guards’ actions were “strictly necessary” given the migrants’ “belligerent behavior.” The minister's testimony before Congress’s Interior Committee contradicted an earlier version by Civil Guard director Arsenio Fernández de Mesa who denied that rubber bullets had been fired.

Up to 14 migrants died when they jumped into the sea to try to swim around a seawall at the Tarajal border crossing between the Spanish exclave and Morocco. They were reportedly crushed during a stampede or against the wall when pandemonium broke loose as migrants suddenly jumped into the sea. “The commission considers that the Spanish authorities have a responsibility to look into the circumstances of this particular incident in Ceuta,” said Michele Cercone, a spokesman for Malmström.

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