12 December 2014
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 amendment formalizes an ongoing but unlawful practice.
In advance of the vote, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks said, “The proposal to legalise automatic collective expulsions of migrants arriving in Ceuta and Melilla is wrong and unlawful under international law. Such a move would inevitably erode fundamental human-rights protections that the international community has fought hard to establish since World War II. The right response to migration influx is not less, but more protection”.
In reaction to this highly controversial move, ECRE member organisation in Spain CEAR has called for the amendment to be withdrawn. “This law, approved by the Popular Party acting alone, prevents the identification of refugees and vulnerable people such as victims of trafficking and therefore their access to adequate protection”, stated Estrella Galán, Secretary General of CEAR.
ECRE, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Rights International Spain argue that summary expulsions to Morocco and the amendment violate Spain’s obligations under international human rights law as well as EU law, in particular the Asylum Procedures Directive, the Schengen Borders Code, the Returns Directive and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
The organisations have called on the EU Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos to intervene with the Spanish government regarding proposed changes to Spanish immigration law. The organisations urged the Commissioner to intensify the scrutiny of the situation at Spain and Europe’s borders in North Africa, to address a communication to the Government of Spain making clear that this amendment is contrary to Spain’s obligations under EU law, and to launch an infringement procedure against Spain for documented summary expulsions from Ceuta and Melilla in violation of EU law, building on the recent steps taken by the previous Commissioner.
Furthermore, the law also brought in a number of other reforms which, amongst others, would allow the authorities to fine people who hold spontaneous protests or who show “lack of respect” for law enforcement officers. “The public security bill presents a direct threat to the rights of peaceful assembly and free speech in Spain,” said Judith Sunderland, senior Western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The government is trying to give itself broad discretion to curtail and punish dissent.”
The bill is expected to be passed by the upper house of the Parliament as the conservative Popular party has an absolute majority. Opposition parties have pledged to scrap it once the composition of the Parliament allows it. Elections are expected in 2015.
For further information:
- The Guardian, Spain approves law to expel north African migrants and fine protesters, 11 December 2014.
- Reuters / Global Post, Spain passes anti-protest bill, to considerable protest, 11 December 2014
- El Diario, La mayoría absoluta del PP aprueba la legalización de las devoluciones ilegales en la frontera, 11 December 2014.
- El País, El PP aprueba su ‘ley mordaza’ en solitario y entre protestas, 11 December 2014
- El País, Interior Minister: “Give me an address and I’ll send the migrants there”, 11 December 2014
- Le Figaro, Espagne/manifestation: une loi contestée, votée, 11 December 2014
- ECRE Weekly Bulletin, European Commission urged to intervene to stop violations of EU law in Ceuta and Melilla, 7 November 2014
- ECRE Weekly Bulletin, International pressure mounting on Spain over attempt to legalize summary returns in Ceuta and Melilla, 31 October 2014
- ECRE Weekly Bulletin, Spain’s attempt to give legal cover to push back policy in Ceuta and Melilla under fire, 24 October 2014
- Wall Street Journal, Spain Steps Up Deportation of Would-Be Migrants to Europe. Deportations Without Opportunity to Appeal Violate European Union Law, 6 November 2014
- ECRE Joint Press Release, Spain: Abandon Abusive Migration Plan, 30 October, 2014
- Human Rights Watch, Spain: Flawed Public Security Bill, 24 November 2014