Spain-Morocco: Statement on the hot returns from the Chafarinas on 3 January: "a serious violation of human rights"


Yesterday morning, on 3 January 2020, a group of 42 migrant people, including 26 women and two children aged three and four, reached Congress Island in the Chafarinas archipelago. That same evening, the Guardia Civil enacted the summary return of the 42 migrants. On this occasion, the Spanish government allowed the hot return of vulnerable minors and women.

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At present, the government's delegation in Melilla has confirmed the return, arguing that the vessel never reached the island. However, our human rights organisations have evidence that these 42 people reached the Chafarinas in the morning and were not assisted until they were returned to Morocco although some people were injured and "one of the children was very ill".

The signatory human rights organisations consider this a serious violation of human rights. It is an illegal practice, as has been repeatedly noted by the European Court of Human Rights. It even violates the first provision of the Ley de Seguridad Ciudadana (Law on Citizens' Security), because these people have not had access to legal counsel and to an interpreter, and nor have any administrative procedures been carried out regarding their expulsion or return, contravening the minimum guarantees set by the law. Border control and the management of migration flows cannot fail to comply with the laws that are in force.

Given this situation, we demand compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights that explicitly prohibits collective expulsions because they violate the fundamental right of every person who may suffer persecution to be informed of their right to request international protection or asylum. Hence, we demand that a necessary investigation be carried out regarding the events that have taken place.

We also ask the new government coalition, as it takes office, not to forget that:

  • The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg found the Spanish state guilty for this practice in 2017, in a sentence that highlighted the illegality of summary returns and the impossibility of covering them using the tenth additional provision that was incorporated into the Ley de Extranjería (Immigration Law) by the Ley de Seguridad Ciudadana. Derogating this additional provision and putting an end to this practice that has been used at the Southern Border since 1995 is an urgent matter. We also call for the government to withdraw the state General Attorney's office's appeal lodged against this sentence by the ECtHR.
  • Regarding the procedures that are carried out at the border, we call for their execution to ensure a process that includes all guarantees, focusing on migrant peoples' needs and based on the non-refoulement principle that forms part of international normative codes and is one of the pillars of the 1951 Geneva Convention.
  • We reject the externalisation of borders as a migration policy through which our governments seek to delegate responsibility for the lives of migrant people to the governments of transit countries where, in most cases, people's rights are not respected.

Translation by Statewatch. Originally published by Mugak, one of the signatory organisations, on 7 January 2020. The original statement is available here (Mugak, link).

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