Amnesty International called the unanimous ruling “a blow to refugee and migrant rights.”
Rabat – The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has overturned a previous ruling and upheld Spain’s expulsion of two migrants from the Spanish enclave of Melilla into Morocco.
The Grand Chamber of the ECHR issued its ruling on Thursday, February 13, but the case dates back to a 2014 migration attempt.
After a large number of irregular migrants climbed and balanced atop the fence surrounding Melilla on August 13, 2014, Spanish civil guards helped migrants climb down on the Moroccan side with ladders. The civil guards then handed the migrants over to Moroccan authorities.
Two of the migrants, identified in the court ruling as N.D. from Mali and N.T. from Cote d’Ivoire, sued Spain in early 2015 for deporting them to Morocco without hearing their individual circumstances. The men, both in their late 20s at the time, argued that Spain had violated the European Convention on Human Rights prohibiting “collective expulsion.”
Amnesty International called the unanimous ruling “a blow to refugee and migrant rights.” An Amnesty researcher on refugee and migrant rights, Anna Shea, said the decision was “very disappointing.”
She continued, “These two men were marched back to Morocco as soon as they entered Spain, with no chance to explain their circumstances.” The Malian national had said he left Mali because of armed conflict in 2012.
An October 2017 court ruling, by the Chamber of the ECHR, had unanimously found Spain to be in breach of the convention.
The men claimed that while attempting to reach Melilla, Moroccan authorities threw stones at them. Of the approximately 600 migrants who stormed the Melilla border on August 13, 2014, about 100 managed to cross the outermost fence, but 75 of those remained perched on the top of the innermost of Melilla’s three fences.
The Grand Chamber’s ruling records N.D.’s and N.T.’s account that once Spain deported them back to Morocco, they were taken to the police station in nearby Nador. “There, they allegedly requested, and were refused, medical assistance before they were taken to Fez some 300 km away, and being left to fend for themselves.”
The ECHR ruled that because the men had attempted to reach Spain with a large group of people, “the lack of an individualised procedure for their removal had been the consequences of the applicants’ own conduct in placing themselves in an unlawful situation.”
The court further ruled that Spain could not be held responsible “for the absence of a legal remedy in Melilla enabling them to challenge that removal.”