Terror suspects expelled using immigration legislation
The Spanish newspaper El País reported on 30 May 2004 that two foreign nationals, at least one of whom is Moroccan, were expelled using the Ley de Extranjería (Aliens Law, Spain's immigration legislation) because they were deemed to be a threat "to national security", and of being loosely linked to the 11 March 2004 bombings in Madrid. The two were described as people "against whom no criminal charges have been brought", but about whose activities the authorities have "clear knowledge". They will not be allowed back into Spain for ten years.
Police and Interior Ministry sources have been quoted as saying that this could be an effective way to combat Islamic terrorism, with a police official observing that:
"11-M is a watershed. What should we do when there is a lack of evidence to charge a person, but all the available evidence indicates that they knew about, encouraged or supported terrorist activities?".
The use of immigration legislation to expel terrorist suspects residing legally in Spain is a novelty, but it is expected to become a more common practice because, according to an unnamed Interior Ministry source, "we are willing to use this method as many times as it is necessary", and a police official also argued that "If a suspect comes to renew their residence permit, we will simply not renew it and expel him". Article 54 of the Ley de Extranjería considers involvement in activities that threaten Spain's external security, may harm Spain's relations with other countries, or contravene public order, to be "very serious offences" which may lead to expulsion under article 57 of the same law.
Izquierda Unida (IU, United Left) and Ezquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC, Catalan Republican Left), two of the parties that support the Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE, Spanish Socialist Workers' Party) minority government, expressed their concern about the possibility of the Ley de Extranjería being used arbitrarily, and that this practice may lead citizens to associate migrants with terrorism. ERC's spokesman in the Congreso (parliament), Joan Puigcerdós, stressed that he would like the government to provide detailed information about the expulsions, and hoped that this will not become a "habitual practice by the interior minister". If this was to be the case, he argued that:
"we will have problems, especially among the Muslim community, which will feel insecure because it will think that it doesn't have a right to the same guarantees as everyone else".
IU leader Gaspar Llamazares described the expulsions as a case of the immigration law being used "beyond its scope" because:
"It is not possible that Spain, which has well developed anti-terrorist procedures, should have to use the Ley de Extranjería. Instead of expelling them, they should be put on trial."
The two people who were expelled were reportedly among the 40 persons arrested in connection with the Madrid bombings, but they were later released without charges being brought against them.
El País, 30-31.5.2004.
Press statement of the Immigration Section [of the Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos de Andalucía] in response to the recent government measure of expelling Muslim migrants on the basis of a suspicion that they may be undermining State security
APDHA [Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos de Andalucía] wants its voice to join those of Muslim collectives and other associations that have expressed their concern over the recent measure taken by the government by expelling Muslim migrants using the Ley de Extranjería, on the basis of a suspicion that they may be undermining State security. However, our criminal code and the well developed anti-terrorist procedures that are available have not been sufficient to support this measure.
The adoption of measures such as this one, without judicial control, and without the need to provide evidence, makes us fear that the Ley de Extranjería may be used arbitrarily. The use of an administrative law such as the Ley de Extranjería for purposes that fall within [the scope of ] criminal law, spreads the inadvisable assimilation of irregular migrants with dangerous terrorists. The effects that this could provoke are definitely dangerous. When faced with criminal problems, criminal measures should be used.
Summing up, the encouragement by the government of any possible connection between crime or terrorism and immigration creates a fertile ground [for attitudes] that are not favourable for coexistence, and we seriously fear that actions like these allow it to prosper.
Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos, 1 June 2004.
Statewatch translation of the press statement by the Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos, available (in Spanish) on: http://www.apdha.org/comunicados/documentos/xpulsionmusulmanes0604.htm
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