Rabat - The Spanish government has sparked public outcry for returning to Morocco 116 migrants who stormed the Spanish enclave of Ceuta on Wednesday.
Rabat – The Spanish government has sparked public outcry for returning to Morocco 116 migrants who stormed the Spanish enclave of Ceuta on Wednesday.
In an unprecedented move, Spanish and Moroccan authorities agreed Thursday for Spain to send back to Morocco the 116 migrants who “violently” crossed the land border from Morocco to Spain on Wednesday, August 22. Spanish authorities confirmed the deportation in a statement: “The 116 sub-Saharan migrants who illegally entered Spain through Ceuta have been readmitted by Moroccan authorities.”
The statement added that the deportation process had been done “legally” in accordance with international and European norms as well as a 1992 bilateral agreement between Madrid and Rabat. “All [migrants] benefited from a lawyer, an interpreter and medical help,” according to the Spanish Ministry of the Interior.
The decision has, however, provoked a storm of criticism in the country, with a coalition of 48 Spanish NGO and human rights advocacy groups describing the move as “scandalous.”
Walking Borders, a Madrid-based advocacy group, said that the mass deportation on arrival was both illegal and unmindful of international law regarding the rights of migrants. The decision “constitutes a gross violation of human rights.”
Proactiva Open Arms has also cast doubts on Spain’s recent reputation as a welcoming destination for migrants refused in other EU countries. “The most concerning,” the NGO said, “is that if the government is capable of such a move before the eyes of the world and in front of the cameras, we can imagine that what they do at deep sea is much worse.”
Spain’s mixed feelings on migration
Leading the spiral of tirades against Spanish authorities is the far-left party Podemos, which in June played a major rule in the electoral triumph of the current socialist government.
According to Podemos, Spain acted in blatant disregard of human rights and the country’s reputation for being welcoming and tolerant on migration issues.
“This government should continue acting as it did in its first days,” the group said, hinting at an incident in June when Spain stepped in to receive over 600 migrants onboard the Aquarius rescue ship, a group that Malta and Italy had rejected.
While others have expressed disappointment that the newly-elected socialist government would resort to such rapid mass deportation, they maintained that authorities were only following Spain’s old policy on migration.
Carmen Calvo, deputy prime minister in the current socialist government, showed sympathy towards the criticism. She acknowledged the unprecedented pace in which the deportation occurred. In defense of the current government, however, she said, “Spain’s migration policy has not changed of an ounce in recent decades.”
She also pointed out that the 116 migrants “violently” entered Spain, throwing dangerous chemical substances, including quicklime and battery acid, at the Spanish Civil Guard while physically assaulting others. Seven civil guards were injured in the incident, according to reports.
Calvo said that is “unacceptable” to enter a country as the migrants did on Wednesday.