The Spanish rescue services rescued an inflatable boat with 42 people on board on Thursday night, 32 men, nine women and one minor. The occupants disembarked at the Arguineguín dock (in the southwest of Gran Canaria), at around 11:30 p.m., and only two pregnant women were taken to the hospital as per protocol. But among the survivors were two men wounded by firearms, one of them in the scapula and the other in the right forearm, as confirmed by medical sources and security forces to EL PAÍS. According to sources familiar with the event, these two men were treated at the dock, but did not report their injuries and were transferred to the Temporary Assistance Center for Foreigners (CATE) in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, where immigrants are admitted for a maximum of 72 hours for identification. Once the Canary Islands Health Service evaluated the injured, they were admitted to the hospital.
The facts are still being investigated. The two wounded have recounted that the shots were fired on the Saharawi beach this Tuesday, when they were preparing to jump into the sea with a pneumatic boat. According to his testimony, two other people were traveling on the boat, also wounded by firearms, who died and were thrown into the sea.
The spokesperson for the NGO Caminando Fronteras, Helena Maleno, has published her version of events on Twitter. According to Maleno, this boat, which she had been tracking for days, left Cape Bojador (north coast of Western Sahara, controlled by Moroccan security forces). It was seven in the morning on Tuesday and there were 47 people on board. the activist has denounced in several tweets that at the moment of setting sail, the boat was intercepted by the Moroccan military, who fired “up to four bursts” of shots against the occupants. These shots, always according to Maleno’s account, killed at least one young Malian man with neck wounds and caused three other people, of Guinean nationality, to fall into the sea. After the event, the NGO spokeswoman concludes, the Moroccan gendarmerie appeared in the area, the survivors pointed to the military responsible and requested an investigation into the events. “The gendarmerie detained them and deported them,” she says.
The Ministry of the Interior maintains that the events “are too recent” to draw conclusions. Police sources confirm the admission of two men to the hospital, one with a superficial wound caused by projectile remains, which is already in the CATE, and another with an entry and exit hole caused by a bullet. The same sources affirm that there would be a third male with a superficial gunshot wound. The National Police is collecting data to open an investigation.
The Moroccan authorities have intensified migration controls since Spain decided, in March 2022, to align itself with Rabat and describe its offer of autonomy for Western Sahara as the “most serious, realistic and credible” option. Thus, irregular arrivals along the Canary route fell from 22,316, in 2021, to 15,682 people, in 2022, a decrease of 29.7%, according to data from the Ministry of the Interior. Between January 1 and May 15 (latest figures available), 3,495 people have disembarked in the Canary Islands, representing a drop of 54.1%.
The increase in border control, according to various NGOs, has led to an increase in violence against migrants and refugees. This, in fact, is not the first time that the survivors of a boat and humanitarian organizations have denounced the use of firearms by the Moroccan authorities when it comes to preventing departures. In September, nine non-governmental organizations denounced that a woman of sub-Saharan origin had been shot dead on the beach by agents of the Moroccan Gendarmerie. The organizations then denounced “the exponential increase in the use of force by state security forces [marroquíes] in their actions in border territory, considering migrants as a threat instead of as subjects of care and rights.” The episode was not clarified and Rabat, as usual, remained silent.