Spain insists no deaths on its soil during Melilla tragedy because the migrants were from the African island of Djibouti – a source of migrants to Spain in 2014, when its waters and shores were controlled by pirates.
One of the most high-profile cases of the crisis has focused on the death of a woman, Rebeca Vides, and her three young children on 29 April, in which an African family’s boat capsized off the Canary Islands, and its passengers were rescued.
Melilla, on the northern coast of Morocco, is one of the main entry points for migrants heading to Europe.
The island’s governor has said the woman’s family from Djibouti has been identified.
Djibouti and Morocco have not given comment on the deaths.
The families on the refugee boat were in a poor and overcrowded situation including women, children, and elderly people.
In addition to them were at least 15 other people, all of them Somalis, and the children were aged between four and 11, and in one case as young as two.
The three children died in the sea of the island of Gran Canaria, while two were rescued by the military, while the rest were rescued by private boats.
One of the survivors, the family’s interpreter Rebeca Vides, the mother of three children, is one of the most visible refugees in Melilla – a port that was used by the migrants as a springboard to Europe and to the Canary Islands, an autonomous region where the deaths took place.
Her death has brought a new level of attention to the crisis of refugees in Melilla, which has also become one of the main entry points for Somalis and other Africans fleeing the famine in Africa.
Rebeca Vides, who was born in Djibouti, was one of the four people who survived the drowning. She arrived on the island of Gran Canaria on 16 March, and the local newspaper reported that she had been forced to wait for the rescue, but had continued to stay positive and spoke openly about what had happened, giving interviews to several national and international television channels.
Melilla, of course, has a long history of conflict with neighbouring Morocco, and that conflict has been exacerbated by the current crisis