Spain: Tripling of arrivals by sea in 2017 shows need for safe migratory routes, says human rights group

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Tripling of arrivals by sea in 2017 shows need for safe migratory routes, says human rights group
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Translation of a press release by Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos de Andalucía, 26 February 2017
  • Almost 250 people lost their lives trying to arrive in Spain in 2017
  • Arrivals in Cadiz have increased by more than 300%
  • During 2017, Spain has been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights for its "hot returns" (devoluciones en caliente) policy

The Andalusian Association for Human Rights (Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos de Andalucía, APDHA) has called today for Spain to establish safe routes to access the country that will prevent people risking their lives at sea. The call comes alongside the presentation of the report 'Migratory Balance 2017', which demonstrates the notable increase in entries into Spain by maritime routes: 22,419 people arrived in 2017, almost tripling the number from the previous year.

The report confirms an increase in the number of people arriving in Spain from other countries, almost doubling over the last year - 28,587 people in total, taking into account maritime and terrestrial routes. This has come about at a time of marked drops in arrivals via other routes to Europe. The increase in repression, the persecution of NGOs and the hellish situation in Libyan account for the decrease in migration across the Central Mediterranean, with people seeking alternatives routes such as via the Straits of Gibraltar. Nevertheless, arrivals by the Central Mediterranean route remain five times than those at Spain's southern border.

"The measures to contain the flows agreed with countries of origin, the repression exercised against migrants and the mechanisms for closing the borders of Fortress Europe are not capable of halting the movement of people that sometimes spend years in different countries in order reach a better place to live," APDHA points out.

For the organisation, the increase in the arrival of migrants at Spain's coasts has demonstrated once again, as it did in 2006, that there are no adequate structures or measures to deal with arrivals in a dignified manner and that respects their rights. This has become evident in places such as Malaga, Barbate and Motril.

"The reality is unbearable," advises ADPHA. 249 people lost their lives in 2017 trying to reach Spain, amongst them Samuel, the four-year-old child whose body appeared in January on the coasts of Barbate and that of his mother, Veronique Nzazi, discovered in February in Algeria. The association recalls that in the last 20 years, more than 6,000 people have died trying to reach Spain via the southern borders. Yet these are only the figures that ADPHA has been able to verify: according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), for every person that it can be proven has died, there are likely two others of which nothing is known, thus leading to a tripling of this "already-horrible figure".

Extreme poverty, the presence of armed conflicts or the absence of a future propel the youngest sectors of society towards emigration as the only viable alternative. ADPHA denounces the fact that migratory policies try to paralyse these flows, even though those policies provoke grave violations of human rights, and recalls that during 2017 Spain has been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights for its systematic practice of carrying out summary returns at the border (devoluciones en caliente), denying the possibility to request asylum.

Another of the conclusions of the report is the significant arrival of people in Andalucia, particularly along the Cadiz coastline. The latter, with 6,289 people arriving, signifies an increase of more than 300% with regard to the previous year. Morocco is the principal country of origin of those who arrive in Spain, and without doubt "the situation of crisis that has been ongoing in Morocco for over a year will have been an influence," notes the association. Morocco is followed by Algeria, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Gambia and Syria, according to IOM data. By geographical region, the majority of persons arriving in Spain are of sub-Saharan origin.

The figures show a decrease in the number of women that have migrated towards Spain in the last year - something probably related to the important increase in migration proceeding from the Maghreb. Furthermore, the report highlights an increase in minors arriving in Spain of more than 66%, something that has put into stark relief the lack of adequate resources for the protection of children that arrive in our country.

Amongst the methods utilised in maritime crossing, the revival of old wooden dinghies is notable, both in the Straits and the Alboran Sea. There has also been an increase in motorboats, especially in Ceuta. There is continuing use of what are essentially toys such as surfboards, above all by children, making the journey even more dangerous. The use of these methods puts at serious risks the lives of people who have no real options to travel in a safe manner due to restrictive migratory policies.

The Spanish government's response to population movements - which is both illegal and totally lacking in solidarity - must change, says APDHA. "Razor wire, fences, patrol boats, returns, death and suffering cannot continue being the response of this country to people fleeing war and hunger. History will judge us for the cruelty and inhumanity that our governments practice and to which our borders are witnesses," explains the association, which calls for policies of welcome that put dignity and human rights at their forefront.

Source: APDHA reclama vías seguras tras triplicarse las entradas por mar el pasado año (APDHA, link). Translation by Statewatch.

Full report: Balance Migratorio: Frontera Sur 2017(link to pdf)

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