Spain arrests smuggler over migrant death

Spanish authorities have arrested a people smuggler following the death of a migrant on board a boat bound for Spain from Morocco, according to a report from the Spanish newspaper El Mundo on 16 July.

The Guinean smuggler is accused of allegedly decapitating the migrant over a dispute about a stolen drink.  The dispute is said to have occurred after the migrant ran out of food and water and took a drink from the smuggler’s bag. When the smuggler found out, he attacked the migrant in front of the 17 other migrants on board the boat.

The group of migrants were attempting to make the dangerous journey across the Alboran Sea to reach Spain.  The Spanish newspaper El Mundo reported that each migrant paid EUR 2,500 for the journey.

The boat was spotted by a migrant rescue ship on 5 July. The other 17 migrants on board were rescued unharmed.

“He has cut off his head. He has gone crazy,” one of the rescued migrants told a Red Cross volunteer. The rescued migrants were taken in by the Spanish Commission for Refugees (CEAR) and transported to a shelter in Malaga where they received psychological support.

Many of the migrants who witnessed the attack are suffering from severe trauma including anxiety attacks and an inability to sleep. Volunteers at the reception centre in Malaga reported “a week after the events, many still cannot sleep, many still need psychological support”.

Omar Naji, President of the Moroccan Human Rights Association, said that his organization was already aware of the arrested smuggler’s record of tricking people into undertaking dangerous migration journeys for the promise of a better life in Europe, especially vulnerable women from Sub-Saharan Africa. Naji said that vulnerable migrants travelled to Morocco and were then forced to pay up to EUR 3,000 for a boat crossing to Spain. Naji added, “We [flagged] him several times. Moroccan police detained him and set him free again.”

Spain is working closely with Morocco to curb irregular migration and dismantle migrant smuggling networks. In early July 2019, the Director of Migration and Border Control at Morocco’s Interior Ministry Khalid Zerouali told Reuters that within the first five months of 2019, the Moroccan coast guard had prevented some 25,000 irregular migration crossings. He further stated that the Moroccan authorities have dismantled about 50 smuggling rings.

TMP – 26/07/19

Photo credit: No-Mad /

Photo caption: The migrants traumatized by the horrific atrocity were taken in by the Spanish Commission for Refugee Aid (CEAR).