NGOs demand inquiries into immigration deaths in Barcelona and Marseilles

Two statements, one by the Catalan section of SOS Racismo and the other one jointly issued by French association Anafé alongside the international networks Migreurop and Boats 4 People, demanded official inquiries into the deaths of an Armenian man in the Catalan detention centre (Centro de Internamiento de Extranjeros, CIE) in Zona Franca on 3 December 2013 and of a young Guinean man who drowned on 10 January 2014 near to the port of Marseilles. The French authorities attempted to return him to his point of departure by putting him back on board of the ship that carried him and a fellow Guinean man to Marseilles from Dakar, after their request to lodge an asylum application was refused.

Subsequent developments in the case of the Armenian man in Barcelona, the 32-year-old Aramis Manukyan, nick-named "Alik", included a demonstration on 10 December by the Armenian community, accompanied by some sub-Saharan Africans, during which they questioned the official version, whereby Alik supposedly hanged himself using his shoelaces in the centre's isolation cell, where he was transferred because of his aggressive attitude toward his cellmates. Members of Tanquem els CIEs, a campaign to close detention centres, spoke to his cellmates on 5 December and were told that "Alik had an argument with the police officers who control the CIE, they entered the cell, attacked him and forcefully took him out", and heard him shouting and moaning during the night. Two key witnesses were expelled to Morocco in the following days, after going on a hunger strike and contradicting the official version by claiming that Alik was beaten up prior to being placed in isolation, before they were able to testify.

Moreover, migrant support groups' lawyers (from Tanquem els CIEs and Migrastudium) had asked the CIE's judicial oversight authorities involved in the investigation into the death to hear some detainees who had witnessed heard Alik screaming before his tranfer to the isolation cell where he died, providing their details. A few weeks later, there were disturbances and a hunger strike on 31 December that were reportedly put down with considerable violence by riot police officers from the national police, followed by the expulsion of one of the detainees who was seriously injured. Investigations by both the national ombudswoman (Defensora del Pueblo), Soledad Becerril, and the Catalan ombudsman (Sindic de Greuges), Rafel Ribó, have proposed a series of changes in the general regime that is applied to detainees to correct routine practices that involve the violation of rights, including a protocol to prevent suicides. Becerril has called on the interior ministry to review the regulation of CIEs and to raise the matter in the council of ministers (the Spanish cabinet).

The case in Marseilles provides further evidence of the unlawful practices that are taking place in ports in relations to stowaways, in which the expediency of removals regularly trumps legal norms, as documented in Migreurop's 2010/2011 report (see sources, below).

See Statements:

Joint press statement Death of a young Guinean in the Port of Marseilles: Anafé, Migreurop and Boats 4 People demand an inquiry (pdf) and

SOS Racisme demands a thorough and effective official investigation into the death of a person in the CIE in Zona Franca, Barcelona (pdf)


Canarias 7, 4.12.2013; Diagonal, 5, 9, 16, 23.12.2013, 14.1.2014; El País, 4.12.2013, 16.1.2014; Periodico de Cataluña, 4, 11-12.12.2013; Público, 4, 26.12.2013, 16.1.2014.

Tanquems els CIEs report on the Barcelona CIE and past incidents in Zona Franca, as well as ongoing legal concerns over the treatment and general conditions of detainees and the difficulties in investigating abuses, January 2014 (in Catalan)

At the margins of Europe. The externalisation of migration controls, Migreurop, 2010/2011 report, part 2 (pp. 29-44)

Sanctions for stowaways: how merchant shipping joined the border police, Paloma Maquet and Julia Burtin Zortea, Statewatch, vol 23 no. 2, pp. 38-42, August 2013

The original in French is available at: "Quand la marine marchande seconde la police aux frontières: externalisation et sous traitance des contrôles migratoires dans le milieu maritime"

Securitising maritime transport: shipping merchandise and dealing with stowaways, Statewatch, June 2012.

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