Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz is right to say that there was a “big human tragedy” in Ceuta on February 6. It has taken him weeks to admit it clearly, and during that space of time some blatant contradictions have been made by the services under his orders. A good example of these are the reports revealed by EL PAÍS showing that the Civil Guard concealed the fact that rubber bullets were shot at people trying to swim to shore at Tarajal beach, with the aim of illegally entering Spanish territory.
A serious country needs to clear up who gave the orders to proceed in this manner, what measures are being taken, and whether this method has been used in the past. The government is under the obligation to identify the culprits, both over the use of riot gear that caused a panic among people swimming in precarious conditions, and over the unusual internal system of covering up questionable actions in official communications.
Clearing up why this happened and why officials concealed that guards shot into the water is not the same as putting the entire Civil Guard up for questioning. But we cannot look the other way in the face of bad practices, most especially by the state’s law enforcement agencies. On the contrary, it is necessary to confront the issue with all the respect due to the 15 people who died, who are but the latest addition to a long list of drowned Africans trying to reach Europe. The situation is certainly undeserving of comments such as those made by the head of the Melilla government Juan José Imbroda, who said perhaps Spain should send out a “committee of hostesses” to greet undocumented migrants at the border, rather than riot police.
Rise in clandestine immigration
Clandestine immigration into Europe is growing significantly, according to the European border control agency Frontex. Countries suffering from war, anarchy and poverty always produce migrants, and these would rather risk dangerous journeys than resign themselves to suffering back home. A congressional committee would be a very good thing to set up right now, in order to reach a consensus over a serious strategy for a problem that is full of sharp edges. The odd “punishment” will not relieve the migratory pressure on the borders of the Spanish exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, nor will it protect the whole of Europe from faraway but very real conflicts whose consequences are already reaching the doors of Spain.