Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz on Thursday responded to criticism aimed at him by Spanish and European institutions, the Catholic Church and more than a hundred NGOs over the illegal deportation of migrants at the Ceuta and Melilla borders.
“If they give me an address where we can move these poor people and they can guarantee their upkeep and give them work, I assure you we will send them,” the minister said.
Fernández Díaz has come in for repeated criticism over the immediate forcible return to Morocco of migrants caught scaling the border fences into Spain’s two north African exclaves. Sending immigrants straight back through the fence once they have made it into Spain is expressly prohibited under Spanish law, which states that, once in the country, would-be 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.
If anyone has a different solution from the one we propose for complying with the law, then tell us”
The government is planning to legalize the practice through a reform to the Immigration Law introduced in the draft bill of the new Citizens Safety Law, which Congress was due to send to the Senate on Thursday for approval.
In comments to TV station Antena 3, and reported by Europa Press, Fernández Díaz said: “From offices in northern Europe where they don’t have this problem, from central Europe, or from other places where they give lectures on humanitarianism, I would tell them to give me an address and we will send them – that said, with the commitment that they are going to look after them and that they are going to give them a job appropriate to their status and their abilities.”
The minister argued that there is a “lot of hypocrisy” regarding the issue. “If the problem could be resolved by picking up these poor people on Gurugú [the Moroccan mountain where the migrants camp out] in front of the Melilla border fence, or by going to Ceuta and picking up thousands of illegal immigrants and putting them in Spain, and we fixed the problem like that, I assure you I would do it tomorrow,” he said.
But the problem, he said, is that doing so would only mean “hundreds of thousands of immigrants looking for a better future than the one they have in their countries of origin would come,” and Spain only “has the capacity to take in people that it has,” he warned.
“I understand these humanitarian dramas – how am I not going to understand them? – but I don’t accept anyone considering themselves as having greater humanitarian feelings than me, or lesser ones, either.”
He continued: “I would say that if anyone has a different solution from the one we propose for complying with what the law says – that you have to enter Spain legally through the border passes authorized for that purpose, and not illegally, not en masse, and not, like on no few occasions, violently; if anyone has a different formula for operating than the way the Civil Guard do, then tell us. Up to now, no one has been able to tell us one.”
The minister also defended the objective of guaranteeing the inviolability of the borders, something that Spain has “the right and the duty,” as well as a “extra responsibility,” to do, given that it sits on an exterior border of the European Union. “Borders delimit the territory and the territory is intimately linked to the idea of sovereignty. We have the right and the duty to defend our sovereignty,” he said.