We were already in the water, a few meters from the shore, when we heard gunfire. At first I thought they were warning shots. But then I saw blood on the boat. Then a guy next to me pointed at my arm and said, “Hey, you’re the one who bleeds.”
Angela — fictitious name, like all those who appear in this report — is a smiling 27-year-old Ghanaian woman currently in recovery with her right arm in a sling, In a hotel in Gran Canaria. She was one of 44 people rescued by the ship. sulfamar Macondo 10:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 25, When they were traveling on an inflatable pontoon 25 kilometers from Arguineguín (Mogán, southwest of Gran Canaria). Back at the pier, they said they were shot by the Moroccan armed forces when they were sailing from a Small bay near Cape Boujdour (Western Sahara) In the early hours of Tuesday morning, the 23rd, the casualties ended up killing two people during the flight, according to survivors. He confirms that another person did indeed die almost immediately on the coast NGO Walking Borders. Angela was one of the people shot, as confirmed by sources from the Red Cross and the Canary government after the rescue operation. The projectile entered his right elbow and lodged inside his forearm, breaking bones on its way. Another migrant was shot in the back and hit in the shoulder without going through.
Four survivors of that journey told EL PAÍS their version of events and how they managed to endure the three days crossing without water or food. Morocco did not want to respond to these accusations.
Earlier this year, Angela’s parents died in a car accident, she explained at the door of the Ministry of Inclusion and Social Security and the immigration facilities where she resides. She and her two younger brothers inherit some property, such as the family home in the Ghanaian village they originate from (whose name Angela prefers not to reveal to preserve her anonymity). “But after they were buried, our relatives took everything from us,” he says. A friend’s parents agreed to keep the two children. Instead, I stayed home. One night, while he was sleeping, he heard someone breaking down the door. “I looked out the window and saw my parents’ family outside with hunting rifles.” She says she fled in terror, and then decided to leave the country and flee to Europe. “I am sure that if they see me again, they will kill me.”
Her journey first took her to Accra, the capital of Ghana; Then, by plane, to Casablanca, for a later stopover in Tan-Tan (southern Morocco) and finally in Laayoune, the capital of Western Sahara. There, she said, she was received by several women of sub-Saharan origin with whom she had not parted. “If they went, I would follow them; if they sat, I would sit,” he laughs. He asserts that it was they who directed his flight in compressed air. “I’ve never talked to any mafia,” he says, shaking his head. Besides, I didn’t have any money either.
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Liberian Emmanuel, 31, had to manage his journey in the desert city. He left his pregnant wife in Monrovia to cross four countries to reach the desert. “Our crisis is very big,” he stressed at the headquarters of the Federation of African Associations of the Canary Islands (FAAC) in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. There is no real war, but there are tensions between the ethnic groups. Sometimes violence appears.” He worked in Laayoune for about three months to be able to pay the 2,000 euros it cost to leave. “Everyone there talks about jumping to the Canary Islands. It’s very easy to contact people who can help you,” he says. The trip cost Othman, a 19-year-old Guinean, something more, who was defrauded on the first try and finally paid €2,100, saved for seven months in Algeria.
Between the afternoon of Sunday 21 May and the night of Monday 22 May the organization transported, by side or off-road, the hundreds of people it intended to board in two rubber dinghies. The chosen point was a small cove located behind a hill. Departure date, early morning Tuesday the 23rd. “I will never forget that last day,” Osman whispers in the FAAC offices.
At about four o’clock in the morning, the group set off. Many of the passengers carried fuel, food, and boats ashore. Angela, Emmanuel and Osman are assigned the second starting shift along with 47 other people. About ten minutes after the first voyage had set sail, the rubber raft in which they were traveling was let out to sea. That’s when the shooting started. “We didn’t hear voices or cars,” Emanuel recalls. “Just the shots, all of a sudden, from up the hill. Then I saw my boyfriend started bleeding.”
The four bullets hit Angela. “When the boy told me I was bleeding, I looked at my arm. Oh shit... Suddenly my arms swelled up, snapped and bent. My fingers closed into fists and I couldn’t open them. I started crying. Very strong. One of the boys from the boat helped me open my hands and we tried to tie a knot on a piece of clothing. But the blood kept flowing. And I fainted.
The shots and the reaction of the passengers caused the boat to capsize. Four people fell into the water. One immigrant said later NGO Walking Borders, in Morocco, who lost his balance after being grabbed by another man. “We were still close to the shore, and I don’t know how I saved myself. I saw on the beach the boy who clung to me. He was dead. I looked at the army and said to them: You killed him.”
Control of violence
The alleged acts of violence perpetrated by the Moroccan Armed Forces that night in Boujdour are not new. Several organizations highlight the increasingly frequent use of “war materials” in Rabat’s immigration control. The Moroccan authorities have tightened their control since Spain decided, in March 2022, Aligns with Rabat and describes its offer of autonomy for Western Sahara as the “most serious, realistic and credible” option. This larger – and violent, according to NGOs – control – forced a large portion of boat departures for the Canary Islands to move south. the the political crisis in Senegal, moreover, He returned to the Canary Islands using canoesMuch larger ships. Arrivals to the islands backlogd by 18.5% compared to last year, even after a particularly active month in June.
The capsizing of the boat after the shots filled the Zodiac with water, and the emigrants advanced themselves for the bilge work. “The boat had trouble floating,” explains Fatoumata from Guinea, another survivor, who is now Angela’s neighbor on Gran Canaria. That’s why we had to get rid of water and food. because of the weight.”
The trip took about three days. About 66.5 hours without water or food, with 46 miserable lives, five of them seriously wounded. One of them, Mpemba K., died. , from Ivory Coast, in the early hours of Wednesday morning. “He was my friend. I still have his book and mobile phone,” says Emmanuel. The second lasted until that night. “He spent the day walking around in the boat until the pain was excruciating,” Othman said sadly. “What can we do? We didn’t have anything on the plane. Nothing.” The survivors disposed of the body. “I had no choice but to throw her body into the water,” Emmanuel said sadly. “In Africa we say you can’t die with you.”
Angela managed to survive the trip. “She passed out for a long time. But she was awake so many times, and all the time she was sure that she was going to die there, that she would be next to die. She prayed a lot, all the time,” he recalls. They were lucky: when they were rescued 15.5 nautical miles away thanks to an alert from Caminando Fronteras, they were already passing Gran Canaria, the nearest island.
The ordeal did not end with their disembarkation at 11:40 pm on Thursday the 25th. After an initial examination by the Red Cross and emergency services, two people were referred to hospital and three unaccompanied minors were taken to a centre. The rest, including the three gunshot wounds, followed procedure and ended up in the Center of Temporary Interest for Aliens (CATE), where immigrants are admitted for a maximum of 72 hours for identification. The three injured were not transferred to hospitals until the next morning. “This is a clear Discrimination that immigrants experience upon arrivalsays Helena Malino, spokeswoman for Caminando Fronteras. “The immigration control protocols are always applied to them to the detriment of basic rights that should be recognized.” The government delegation limited itself to explaining that the investigation was being prosecuted and that “all migrants who need it have received health care.” The prosecutor’s office opened the proceedings.
The survivors are now recuperating on the island and looking forward to the future. Emmanuel and Othman agree on one thing: they aspire to get to Barcelona and under no circumstances do they want to return to Morocco. “There are daily problems with the police, assaults, rapes, machete attacks…”. Fifty-four days later, Angela’s arm is still swollen and almost immobile. But she is optimistic. “Sometimes when I’m alone, I wonder why it should be me. I remember later that they shot more people and some of them died. If I’m alive, I have no choice but to thank God.”
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