16 January 2015

Concluding a visit to Melilla and Madrid, Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, has called on the Spanish authorities to stop the pushbacks to Morocco of migrants entering the cities of Ceuta and Melilla and to reconsider  the amendments legalising this practice. According to the Commissioner, these modifications are in clear breach of human rights law.

“The Spanish authorities should reconsider [the amendments] and ensure that any future legislation fully abides by Spain’s international obligations, which include ensuring full access to an effective asylum procedure, providing protection against refoulement and refraining from collective expulsions”, Commissioner Muižniekssaid. 

“Push-backs must stop and should be replaced by a practice which reconciles border control and human rights. This is not mission impossible, considering that the migration flows in Melilla currently remain at a manageable level”, he added. According to the Commissioner, Spain received 5,200 asylum applications in 2014, i.e. 1% of the applications lodged in Europe.

Furthermore, the Commissioner asked for any excessive use of force by law enforcement officials to be fully and effectively investigated and for those found responsible to be adequately sanctioned.

Commissioner Muižnieks welcomed the establishment in November 2014 of an asylum office at one of Melilla’s entry points from Morocco. According to the Commissioner, people fleeing Syria are increasingly using this office but regretted that “for other people, particularly Sub-Saharan Africans, who may also have valid protection claims, this possibility is still out of reach and they have to take serious risks, including jumping over the fence that surrounds the city, to get in”.

Citing the overcrowded conditions in the Centre for Temporary Stay of Migrants (CETI), which is hosting 2,000 migrants, four times its capacity, the Commissioner also recommended improving reception conditions in Melilla.

The conservative-led lower house of the Spanish parliament approved legislation on Thursday 11 December allowing for the summary expulsion to Morocco of migrants entering the country’s cities of Ceuta and Melilla in North Africa. The bill still has to be passed by the upper house of the Parliament.


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 This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 16 January 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.