The Prosecutor’s Office of the National High Court considers administrative actions carried out last August to deport Moroccan children en masse as “null and void” and rejects a request from the Ministry of Interior to dismiss appeals against the instruction to implement them. The Spanish government plans to stop assigning reception places to “healthy single men” from countries which have return agreements with Spain.

In August, a court in the Spanish enclave of Ceutra froze Spanish attempts to deport children to Morocco en masse after ruling that procedural safeguards must be respected even in “exceptional” circumstances. At that time 55 of a planned 700 children had been deported. Now the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the National High Court maintains that the appeal of NGOs against the instruction to carry out deportations is admissible and says the Ceuta courts are competent to deal with the case. The court rejected a request from the Ministry of the Interior to dismiss the appeal on the grounds that the competence of returns rests with the Autonomous Government and the Government Delegation in Ceuta and thus not the responsibility of the ministry. Around 300 people attempted to enter Ceuta on 28 September following false rumours on social media about a relaxation of border controls. At least five people were arrested by border guards.

Spanish Minister of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration, José Luis Escrivá, plans to toughen reception requirements for people arriving by sea. According to the minister, Spain will “prioritise” people who based on new criteria are considered vulnerable, such as single women, women with children, sick people, people with disabilities and other vulnerabilities.  “Healthy single men” from countries with which Spain have return agreements, such as Morocco, Algeria and Senegal will be left without reception places. The Minister’s first instruction – approved on 25 September – was suspended in less than 24 hours as it left people in the street and city councils had to prepare emergency shelters. However, according to the ministry the implementation of the measure will take place once agreement on internal protocols is in place. While the instruction cites an alleged 200 per cent increase of sea arrivals, statistics from the Ministry of Interior reveal that the total increase of arrivals by sea and land is just 53 per cent in 2021 as of September compared to the same period of 2020 and that the reception system has 30 per cent available capacity. ECRE member CEAR welcomes the suspension of the instruction and urges the ministry not to reinstate it, noting that a humanitarian reception system cannot discriminate based on nationality. NGOs also warn that a reinstatement could mean a step backwards to the situation in 2017 and 2018 when hundreds of men were left in the streets in destitution.

The Western Mediterranean route continues to be busy. In the early hours of 27 September, the Civil Guard rescued 12 Algerians including a child. The group was transferred to the Port of Almería. Between 27 September and the early hours of 28 September more than 450 people including a pregnant woman and her five children, landed on the southeastern coast of Spain or the Balearic Islands. On 28 September a total of 126 Algerian nationals in eight separate boats were rescued by the Civil Guard.

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Photo: ECRE

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.