17 April 2015

report by the Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) documents excessive violence at the fence border in Melilla. The report follows the CPT visit in Spain in 2014.

In Melilla, migrants interviewed by the CPT referred to excessive use of force by the Spanish police at the multi-fence land border with Morocco. The CPT requested a prompt and effective inquiry into an incident occurring on 15 October 2014 during which a migrant was repeatedly beaten by Guardia Civil officers. The CPT also recommends members of the Guardia Civil to receive appropriate training in professional techniques which minimise harm to any individual whom they – are seeking to apprehend.

According to the Committee, the Spanish amendment to the Aliens Act – which was still in its draft stages at the time of the report – intends to legalise the existing practice of forcibly returning to Morocco irregular migrants without conducting any identification or assessment of their needs.

Furthermore, testimonies document that Moroccan Auxiliary Forces, who sometimes operate in between the fences, use physical violence against migrants, including kicks, punches and blows with wooden sticks in order to forcibly remove them to Morocco.

In the light of the risk of ill-treatment by members of Moroccan Auxiliary Forces of irregular migrants returned to Morocco, the CPT recommends that the Spanish authorities ensure that no person is handed over to them. Further, the Committee recommends that the Spanish authorities ensure that Moroccan Auxiliary Forces officials do not enter Spanish territory to apprehend and forcibly return irregular migrants to Morocco.

The CPT reiterated its request to receive detailed accounts of the use of the Readmission Agreement between Spain and Morocco since 1992 and the number of foreign nationals concerned.

Furthermore, the CPT underlined that irregular migrants are detained in a prison-like environment. In the two detention centres visited, in Barcelona (Zona Franca) and Madrid (Aluche), the shutters on the windows prevented detainees from having access to sufficient natural light. Moreover, despite many places being available at the half-empty Aluche detention centre in Madrid, migrants were made to live in multi-occupancy cells which did not provide for 4 m² of living space per person.

Detainees had no ready access to toilets from midnight to 7 a.m. as the cells, which were locked during this period, were not equipped with toilets. Several detainees indicated that they had to use plastic bottles as staff would not open the cell door at night.

At both centres, some migrants reported that they did not have the possibility of informing their relatives of their forthcoming deportation. A few of them also stated that they could not contact their lawyer before the deportation, as they were only informed of their forced return the night before it took place.

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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 17 April 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.