Moroccan security forces had used “unjustified” violence against migrants trying to break through a border fence between the North African country and a Spanish exclave, a local rights group said on Saturday.
On Friday, Morocco said a total of 18 migrants had died, and others among them and security forces were injured, during a mass attempt to storm the border to the Spanish exclave of Melilla.
However, an official at the independent Moroccan Association of Human Rights, known by the French acronym AMDH, believes the final death toll is higher than reported.
"The number of those killed is unclear yet. AMDH is collecting information, but the association confirms that the death toll is high among the migrants or the security forces," said Amin Abidar, the group’s head in the city of Nador near the border with Melilla.
AMDH had earlier reported that 27 people were killed in the mayhem.
Migrants had been left trapped on the ground for hours without medical assistance, Abidar said.
Videos distributed by AMDH purportedly show dozens of migrants lying crammed on the ground surrounded by security forces. One man is led away with blood on his head. One shot shows a uniformed man beating a man lying on the ground with a baton.
Abidar said the footage was taken by activists and their sympathizers.
Security forces used "unjustified force" against the migrants and "mistreated" them, according to Abidar.
He called on Moroccan authorities to open an "urgent and fair investigation" into the incident to identify those responsible.
Dozens of injured
Morocco's state news agency MAP late Friday reported that 18 migrants died in the attempt, citing local authorities. They died in the crush or fell from the fence.
Dozens of other migrants and 140 members of the Moroccan security forces were injured when they tried to stop the people, MAP added.
The Moroccan Interior Ministry accused the migrants of using violence.
Some 133 managed to enter Spanish territory. Two parallel 6-metre high fences mark the border. Europa Press reported earlier, citing police, that migrants had forced open one of the gates.
Footage posted online showed those who made it through, mainly young men, running through the streets of Melilla and singing and dancing with joy. They arrived at an emergency reception centre.
Morocco became independent from France and Spain in 1956. Nevertheless, Spain still holds two autonomous cities in North Africa: Melilla and Ceuta, 250 kilometres further west on the Strait of Gibraltar. Both are claimed by Rabat.
Near the two cities, tens of thousands of people, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, often wait for a chance to enter the EU.
Usually, several hundred people at a time try to surprise the border officials and get across the border en masse.