A Moroccan appeals court increased the sentences of 13 migrants by six months to three years over a deadly attempted crossing into the Spanish enclave of Melilla, their lawyer said on Monday (Jan. 09).
Around 2,000 people, many of them Sudanese, stormed the frontier on June 24 in a bid to reach Spanish territory across one of the European Union's two land borders with Africa. At least 23 people died.
The court in Nador, a northeastern town near the border with Melilla, "increased the sentences of a group of migrants by six months, taking them to three years in prison each", lawyer Mbarek Bouirig revealed.
They are accused of "participation in a criminal gang of clandestine immigration", illegal entry to Morocco and violence against law enforcement officials, Bouirig said.
Moroccan authorities said 23 undocumented migrants died in the June incident, the worst death toll in years of such attempted crossings.
The Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH) put the number of dead at 27, while rights group Amnesty International said at least 37 people lost their lives.
In a report, Amnesty International described the events as crimes under international law, and questioned the inquiries run by both countries as stalled and inadequate.
Amnesty International says all the events happened on European soil which Spain rejects.
The Spanish government spokesperson, minister Isabel Rodríguez, said late last year that the national police offered a proportionate response to a painful tragedy.
Still in December 2022, Spanish prosecutors dropped their investigation into the deaths of more than 20 migrant, saying they found no evidence of criminal misconduct by Spanish security forces.
According to the authorities, 140 Moroccan police officers were wounded.
Morocco has since handed dozens of migrants sentences of up to three years' imprisonment.
AMDH said last month that the punishments were "severe and unjust".
Melilla and its sister enclave of Ceuta have long been a magnet for those desperate to escape grinding poverty and hunger.
Both Morocco and Spain have insisted the migrants were to blame for the tragedy, with Rabat saying some died after falling while trying to scramble over the fence, while others suffocated as people panicked and a stampede started.