Amnesty International puts spotlight on Spanish immigration policy

Annual study notes reports of excessive force and unlawful expulsions in Ceuta and Melilla

J. Jiménez Gálvez
Spanish Civil Guard officers march two immigrants back to Morocco on February 19.
Spanish Civil Guard officers march two immigrants back to Morocco on February 19.STRINGER (REUTERS)

Amnesty International (AI)’s annual report on the state of global human rights has once again touched on immigration issues in Spain.

The document, which was released on Wednesday, highlights the Spanish government’s actions at its borders with Morocco in Ceuta and Melilla, two exclave cities located along the northern coast of Africa.

The section on Spain mentions “reports of unlawful deportations and excessive use of force by Spanish border guards.”

The government wants to make legal what is illegal” Esteban Beltrán, director of Amnesty International Spain

“Unlawful treatment of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers, including their unlawful deportation to Morocco, and unnecessary or excessive use of force by law enforcement officials, were reported in the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla throughout the year,” reads the study.

Amnesty International mentions the case of 15 undocumented migrants who drowned while trying to swim to Spain from Moroccan territory on February 6, 2014. Members of the Civil Guard used riot gear, including rubber balls and smoke to hold back over 200 people.

Sixteen officers who participated in that police action are now the target of a legal inquiry into the deaths. Meanwhile, 24 other members of the Civil Guard are being investigated for their actions along the border fences in both cities, where thousands of sub-Saharan migrants seeking a new life in Europe routinely attempt coordinated jumps from Moroccan soil into Spanish territory.

More information
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A year on, still no answers over Ceuta migrant drowning tragedy

The report also takes note of the Popular Party government’s attempt to legalize summary deportations to Morocco at the border.

“The government wants to make legal what is illegal,” said Esteban Beltrán, director of Amnesty International Spain.

While the Council of Europe, the Ombudsman and numerous advocacy groups and legal experts have criticized this attempt to legalize on-the-spot expulsions, the AI report puts the situation in the context of the European Union, where other countries have adopted similar measures.

“Those who managed to scale or circumvent the ever-higher, ever-longer fences along the EU’s external land borders risked being illegally pushed back by Spain, Greece and Bulgaria to Turkey and Morocco. […] Push-backs were increasingly supplemented by pull-backs, as the EU sought to strengthen its border control management with these countries.”

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