Spain’s governing Popular Party (PP) is planning on modifying the Citizen Safety Law now going through Congress to provide a legal basis for on-the-spot deportations of sub-Saharan immigrants at the Ceuta and Melilla border fences.
Immediately forcing migrants back into Morocco once they have made it onto Spanish territory is expressly prohibited under the country’s immigration legislation, which states that, once in Spain, migrants have the right to legal assistance and to be identified in order to check whether, for example, they are minors or have suffered political persecution in their country of origin.
What the security forces do at the Melilla and Ceuta borders are not illegal deportations, the minister insisted
NGOs and Spain’s Ombudsmen have repeatedly warned about breaches of the rules in the two North African exclaves.
Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz told Congress that the move was less about trying to legalize on-the-spot deportations than about giving legal coverage to security forces trying to stop migrants jumping the border fences.
The role of the Civil Guard in preventing the entry of immigrants is not “regulated in an explicit way,” he said.
What the security forces do at the Melilla and Ceuta borders are not illegal deportations, the minister insisted. “This is rejecting people at the border and not an on-the-spot handover.” Neither immigration nor state security force legislation gives legal coverage to these rejections, according to the minister.
In recent years the government has wanted to interpret the area around the Melilla and Ceuta fences as not constituting Spanish territory and there have been clear images of migrants being handed back to Morocco.
To combat the issue, the ruling PP has presented a modification to the Citizen Safety Law featuring an additional regulation stating that “immigrants who are detected on the border line that demarcates Ceuta and Melilla territory, trying to cross the border unauthorized in a clandestine, blatant or violent way, will be rejected with the aim of preventing their illegal entry into Spain.”
The government hopes the regulation will clear up the legal gray areas of the situation. “It is not easy to juggle humanitarian principles and at the same time comply with the law that says that to enter Spain, you have to do it legally,” said the minister, who explained that the European Union demanded Spain control its borders some time ago.
Fresh mass crossing attempt
The move comes as another 400 or so migrants tried to jump into Melilla at two spots along the border on Wednesday morning – the second attempt in 48 hours – leaving dozens remaining atop the fence close to the Muslim cemetery.
The previous day 500 migrants had approached the fence, but were forced back by Moroccan police before they could get closer.
The huge pressure on the Melilla border has made 2014 the year with the highest ever recorded number of immigrants to Spain.
On Monday at least six simultaneous attempts to jump the security fence that separates Melilla from Morocco took place with around 60 successfully making it across. Interior Minister Fernández Díaz later said the actions had been professionally planned with the help of mafias.
Five days before that, another mass jump took place in Melilla, in which both migrants and Civil Guards were injured.
Responding to the PP’s proposal, Socialist Party congressional spokesman Antonio Hernando on Wednesday called on the government to come up with a comprehensive plan of action to deal with the situation in Ceuta and Melilla because, in his judgment, the solution was not to throw the immigrants who make it across the border “out the back door.”