Juan Vivas (Ceuta, 1953) continues to defend that the formula proposed by the Interior for the “agile” and “guaranteed” repatriation of single migrant minors to Morocco without having to submit to the Immigration legislation was “legally reasonable”, but assumes that It is a “resolved debate” after the pronouncement of Justice. The president of Ceuta considers that the judicial proceedings that have led to a dead end “complicate the situation for all”: that of the 800 children who arrived in the autonomous city in May, because they continue “in absolute precariousness”, and that of Ceuta, because “it continues to bear unbearable pressure.”
The government’s lurch in immigration: from welcoming the Aquarius to returning minors without complying with the Aliens Act
While waiting for the central government, whose support he appreciates and values, specifies the resources promised by Sánchez to accelerate the processing of his return – which he continues to consider “the best and the only structural solution for the future” -, renounces to continue asking for solidarity to the rest of the autonomous regions and is willing to help build a new relationship with Rabat on “respect, loyal collaboration and good neighborliness.”
Would you re-involve the city in the procedure used between August 13 and 16 to expel Moroccan minors who were under your custody?
As requirements it was established that the return be assisted, that there be an agreement between the two countries, that it should not be a massive repatriation and that the informing principles of the national legislation be respected, not the literality of the Immigration Law. It seemed to me a legally reasonable argument that, in addition, it met our needs quickly and agilely. Since May, which is when all this begins, in one of the most critical moments that Ceuta has experienced, we have been working in the search for quick actions to solve a situation that was and continues to be unsustainable.
In Ceuta we have taken in a number of lonely minors equivalent to 1% of our population: as if the whole of Spain arrived and half a million unaccompanied young people were suddenly left. On May 24, we asked the central government to activate the 2007 Agreement, unprecedented in its application due to Morocco’s reluctance, and when the ‘ok’ was obtained from the neighboring country, which was the main obstacle, the legal services of the State interpreted that it was a substantive legal instrument for situations like this, according to the ruling of the European Parliament.
Did you request a report from your legal services? Who decided that what was done would be done?
I didn’t ask for it. We have the powers of guardianship and custody of minors, but not those of repatriation or relations with Morocco. In this judicial incident we have relied on the State Bar, which deserves absolute credibility. We asked the Interior to apply the Agreement and the one competent to do so was the central government.
Have you been surprised by the allegations of the Interior before the National Court, in which it shifts the responsibility for any possible violation of fundamental rights on the Delegation and its Executive?
Grande-Marlaska did politically what I asked him and I am not going to ask for his resignation, it would not be consistent. The competences are clear, but I understand that the Ministry defends itself in a judicial procedure.
Are you afraid of ending up facing criminal proceedings?
No. In a situation of extreme urgency and emergency, reasonable legal criteria have been applied that have not been validated by the judicial interpretation, but there has been no rude act in breach of the regulations.
Its Child Protection Service warned from minute ‘zero’ that it was acting in an irregular manner.
The Minors Area did not participate in our criteria. We had his verbal opinion and that of the Ministry, which I considered valid. I respect and abide by the judicial decision. We don’t keep fighting for it. It is a resolved debate, but I still think that our legal interpretation was valid and that looking out for the best interests of the minor, it is best that they return to their land, if possible with their family and if not with a public reception institution, which also There are, and solvent, in Morocco. Doubting this implies sinning from a certain superiority complex.
Three months ago they said that Morocco had used its children to blackmail Spain politically.
One thing is the behavior of the authorities and another is the existence of entities dedicated to welcoming homeless children. If from this comes a reconstruction of relationships based on respect, loyal collaboration and good neighborliness, which seems to be the path chosen by the Government of the Nation, which I share, we should not put the bumpers in the wheels without knowing who was the responsible for what happened. Let’s do everything possible so that it does not happen again and to come out stronger. People of all my trust have assured me that the treatment that the returned minors have received has been exquisite and that respect for their rights and their best interests has been guaranteed, which in this case coincides with that of Ceuta beyond the media dogma and of all kinds of interests.
In what situation does the conflict leave the second judicial order that definitively aborted the procedure?
It complicates the situation for all of us. The minors are in absolute precarious conditions and Ceuta continues to endure unbearable pressure.
They have announced that they are going to try to repatriate the minors in compliance with the Immigration Law and its regulations, which require that they not look after that kind of collective “best interest of the minor” to which they appeal, but rather that of each child. How are you going to do?
The interest of the minor as a philosophical concept, as a priority that nobody has tried to violate, let it be clear.
No one ensured that the best interest of each of the 55 returned minors was to return to their country.
Yes we have worried. It was an assisted return. The minors did not express any objection to it being carried out, the Moroccan authorities checked their situation one by one and contacted their parents and as a complementary guarantee a reception institution was indicated [L’Entraide Nationale].
“The solution is in the return”
The Immigration regulations say that, before initiating any repatriation, a report must be requested from Morocco on the family of each minor. Are you aware that it has already been done?
Since I met with President Sánchez, I have spoken with several ministers who are already working on this matter. The first thing we are going to do is specify an itinerary from a technical and documentary point of view of what to do. Different administrative, legal and assistance services will be reinforced to streamline procedures as far as possible when conducting interviews, preparing files … This is going to be detailed immediately, because it is the only way out that we can do. The solution is in the return. We cannot assume that the child’s will is in his best interests.
It is not taken for granted because you have to study it in depth case by case, right?
That of return is a general approach, not a universal one. It cannot be enough for the minor to say that they do not want to leave so that the repatriation does not take place. We are aware, and we have already acted accordingly, that there are circumstances of vulnerability that make it advisable to remain in Spain, and in that sense it has been resolved. We are not against minors, but the ones we have are emergency resources. A sports hall is not a place for them and we have nothing else. The return is the best and the only structural solution for the future that we have.
Why have you given up requesting solidarity or joint responsibility from the rest of the autonomies? Did Sánchez ask you?
No. We agree that the strategic solution is return. Ceuta for immigration cannot be a prison city or a green passport to Europe. Either of those two options are fatal, they would be our end. The phenomenon is structural and this alternative would end up not being provisional. We are not going to change the desire of Moroccan youth and adolescents to come to Spain and the rest of Europe overnight. We must develop other policies that I hope will be made and will prosper to avoid it, but this city cannot be turned into a gateway.
Do you contemplate keeping the children a containerized winter and a sports hall?
I hope the situation improves. On the one hand, that the reluctance of some minors to return changes when they know that they will not go to the peninsula. On the other hand, during 2019 we achieved family reunification with the entry of 200 minors into the city of parents without the additional human resources that we now await. If we are able to reactivate this route, knowing that this is a priority for the State, if we do individual reports quickly, we could consider unifying the reception in the temporary relocation center of ‘La Esperanza’.
Will the Minors’ Area have, this time, freedom to do the procedures according to their criteria?
He has never been deprived of his liberty. Of course we will have that service. In mid-August there was one criterion and the Ministry had another that we consider reasonable and consistent for the benefit of minors and Ceuta.
“Without the speech of the extreme right, everything would be easier”
Have you felt supported by the central government and the PP since the migratory avalanche in May?
Yes. President Sánchez has been with Ceuta in the two critical moments with capital letters: in May, when we saw ourselves on the edge of the abyss and avoided disaster, and now in August. We have had the support of the State and also of my party from the first moment. Pablo Casado has always told me to act looking out for the interest of Ceuta over the PP.
Isn’t it incompatible with him taking advantage of this crisis to beat up the minister you defend?
They are things of politics. I act as I think I should and I am sure that the national president of the PP, too.
Has the use of migrant minors alone by the extreme right dynamited, by electoral calculations, the distribution of minors with other autonomies?
Without that speech, everything would be easier, but we have not taken into account to fix our position the demagogic reaction that Vox could have in each region to the possible arrival of minors from Ceuta. The greatest number of political adhesions must be raised at the service of our coexistence and our Constitution in defense of Human Rights.
Do you maintain your bet to enter the Customs Union and bring the Schengen border to Tarajal, decisions that could be interpreted as hostile from the neighboring country?
Ceuta’s framework of stability is conditioned by the defense of our Spanishness and harmony among all Ceuta; for having a safe and standardized border as a European exterior that it is; for having levels of job creation and social cohesion comparable to the rest of Spain and for strengthening our integration into the EU. Also for having good relations with Morocco.
The Schengen issue was raised as an attempt to ensure that traffic control is in the hands of the Spanish authorities and is duly regulated, but to achieve this there may be different formulas without ending the current exceptionality. Regarding the Customs Union, I am in favor of integration if it does not harm our special Economic and Fiscal Regime, the best in Europe.