On 3 January, the Spanish NGO Caminando Fronteras reported the summary removal by Spanish authorities of 42 people disembarked in the morning at Chafarinas, a Spanish group of small islands situated 3.5 km from the Moroccan Coast.
As testified by a recorded message sent by a person involved in the push-back, people were returned to Morocco by the Spanish Civil Guard while they believed they were approaching the Spanish enclave of Melilla. Only when they heard Arabic voices, they realized they were back at the starting point.
Over 60 NGOs signed a statement denouncing Spain’s violation of the non-refoulement principle, which prohibits States from returning people to a state where they may face severe human rights violations amounting to inhuman and degrading treatment. States are thus obliged to examine each case.
The activist Helena Maleno, member of Caminando Fronteras, underlined: “It wasn’t just a push-back at the entrance, these people were waiting for hours in Spanish territory without any assistance”.
In contradiction with the pictures and the geolocation collected by the NGO, the Government denied any involvement, reporting that people were rescued at sea by the Moroccan Coast Guard who transferred them, as prescribed by the law, to the nearest safe port.
In the last six months, arrivals at the Spanish islands off the Moroccan coast have increased as Spanish and Moroccan police forces stepped up border control in the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. Since August, more than 600 people entered Spain through this route, 120 in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
For further information:
- ECRE, Spain: Rights of Asylum Seekers Deteriorating at Border with Morocco, October 2019
- ECRE, Spain Curbs Last State-Run Rescue Operation in EU, August 2019
- ECRE, Situation Worsens for Migrants on Western Mediterranean Route, June 2019
- ECRE, EU Report Links Drop in Arrivals to Spanish Moroccan Cooperation, May 2019
- ECRE, Op-ed: The Rights of Minors – UN Condemns Spain’s Push-Backs and Demands Legal Amendments, March 2019
- ECRE, 34 refugees die waiting more than 24 hours as ships sinks off the coast of Morocco, 5 October 2018
- ECRE, Op-ed: Cooperation with Morocco in the EU’s African Border – a laboratory of externalization, 12th January 2018
- AIDA, Country report Spain, Update 2018, March 2019