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Human rights activists condemn Europe's migration policy, as migrant death toll continues to soar

Picture taken in the Spanish territory of Melilla in North Africa on June 24, 2022, shows migrants gathering near fences separating the Spanish enclave from Morocco. (Photo by AP)

Marking the anniversary of a devastating migration tragedy, human rights activists in North Africa have denounced Europe's policy towards desperate migrants who risk their lives on land or at sea to reach the continent.

The Maghreb Social Forum on Migration (FSMM) issued the condemnation in an annual gathering held in the northeastern Moroccan town of Nador on Sunday.

It brought together rights activists from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya, international nongovernmental organizations, and African migrants' associations from Spain, France, Belgium and Morocco.

The participants commemorated deaths of at least 23 African migrants, who perished around this time last year, trying to cross into Spain's North African autonomous city of Melilla.

The incident occurred as around 2,000 people, many of them Sudanese, stormed the frontier in a bid to reach the Spanish territory. Some sources put the death toll at 37 with 76 still missing. The Moroccan government says some migrants died after falling from the fences, while others suffocated as people panicked and a stampede started.

The forum called for a "transnational solidarity pact" with migrants, while refusing "European pressure for the externalization of European borders and massive expulsions of migrants and asylum seekers."

The FSMM also rejected a revision of the European Union's rules by the bloc's interior ministers to supposedly pressure member countries to share the burden of migrants and asylum seekers more equitably.

It appealed for independent commissions of inquiry to be set up to look into migration tragedies in the region.

The FSMM's annual meeting came hot on the heels of the latest migration tragedy, which sent shockwaves through the international community.

Earlier this month, an overcrowded fishing trawler carrying as many as 750 migrants, including around 100 children, sank in the Mediterranean Sea.

The boat was traveling from Libya to Italy when it capsized off the coast of Greece. So far, only 104 survivors have been found and 81 bodies recovered, while more than 500 people are still missing.

According to the International Organization for Migration, 2,406 migrants died or disappeared in the Mediterranean in 2022, while 1,166 such cases have occurred since the start of this year.

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