06 February 2015

One year after at least 14 migrants drown off the coast of Ceuta, in Spain, NGOs have commemorated the victims and criticized the failure of the Spanish authorities to properly investigate the circumstances of the deaths.

The Spanish government acknowledged the use of anti-riot material (rubber bullets and blank cartridges) to “deter” migrants from reaching Ceuta on 6 February 2014 and confirmed that 23 survivors who managed to reach the Spanish beach of El Tarajal, were immediately handed over to the Moroccan authorities.

NGOs have criticized that the judicial investigation of the migrants´ deaths that commenced in February 2014 has stalled. No Spanish officials have been indicted or officially disciplined for the loss of life and nobody has resigned.

On the anniversary of the tragic incident, NGOs have reiterated their criticism of the amendments currently under review by the upper house of the Spanish parliament that would allow for the summary expulsion to Morocco of migrants entering Ceuta and Melilla.

The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks and national and international human rights NGOs, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and ECRE, have urged Spain to withdraw these amendments. UNHCR and the European Commission have also expressed their concerns and almost 95,000 people have supported the campaigns #PortazoAlGobierno and estohayquecortarlo.org against summary returns from Ceuta and Melilla.

Automatic returns of this kind violate European law, as well as international human rights and refugee law obligations undertaken by Spain.

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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 6 February 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.