On August 15, the lawyer of the Coordinadora de Barrios association Patricia Fernández Vicens (Madrid, 1977) launched a legal battle together with the NGO Fundación Raíces to stop the return of Moroccan migrant children who had been alone in Ceuta since May in a reception situation. After checking how the first vans took the kids from 15 to 15 to the other side of the border, they went to court to challenge those returns. After achieving his paralysis by court order, the agreement reached by Pedro Sánchez and the President of the City, Juan Vivas, this Wednesday in La Moncloa, to return the children “in compliance with the law” sounds like a public confession. He predicts that both governments “will once again violate their rights.”
The lawyers and activists who supported the Moroccan minors to stop the returns: “We fight against the clock”
In his opinion, the first step to initiate proceedings that truly look out for the best interests of minors while respecting Spanish laws and international regulations is to guarantee them a “dignified” reception, something that can only be done with “transfers to the peninsula” . An option that neither the central government nor that of the Autonomous City contemplate.
“Assisted returns”, returns, expulsions, repatriations, deportations … In your opinion, what is the appropriate name to describe what the central government and that of Spain did with the 55 minors expelled to Morocco between August 13 and 16?
Since what was done is illegal, there is no correct name. The procedure contemplated by the Immigration Law is the family reunification of minors, but this was not. It was a pure expulsion.
When presenting the first request for very precautionary measures to suspend returns, did you think that it would take the authorities nine days to assume that their behavior was irregular?
We were certain that legal reason and moral reason were assisting us, but urgency played against us and we were concerned about the bad faith with which the Government acted and the lack of commitment of other agents such as the Prosecutor’s Office or the Service of Protection of Minors in Ceuta, but we did have confidence in obtaining precautionary justice.
Were you surprised by the forcefulness of the second order of provisional suspension of expulsions?
It contains impeccable legal reasoning and we value that the Prosecutor’s Office supported our request.
Should the Public Ministry have taken the initiative to request the suspension of the procedure?
Definitely. We are talking about girls and boys without a legal guardian in the midst of a conflict of interest between minors who do not want to be returned and the entity that guards them, the autonomous city. Both circumstances warranted that the Prosecutor’s Office had promoted the suspension of the expulsions. It is true that perhaps at first they were unaware of the conditions in which they were produced, but on Monday I consider that it was their responsibility.
What did you think of the insistence of the Interior and the Government of Ceuta in defending their actions?
That really seemed surprising to me. The saying goes that erring is wise and foolish to insist on error. The efforts of both agents lacked any type of support or legal basis. In 2006 or 2007 there was no regulated procedure and these same events would not have been legal or fair, but there would have been room for a legal argument.
Now, with the rulings of the Constitutional Court that forced the change of the Law and the Immigration Regulations in a procedure promoted by the Coordinadora de Barrios, trying to destroy our entire legal architecture for the protection of children is only understood from a deep disregard for rights of children, who are not seen as such, as subjects of protection, but as a political problem to be solved, as Pedro Sánchez and Juan Vivas reiterated this Tuesday.
Trying to load our entire legal architecture for the protection of children is only understood from a deep disregard for the rights of children, which are not seen as such but as a political problem to be solved.
They say that they accept to change forms but maintain the fund: we must return all minors claiming that this is the best, looking out for their supposed superior interest
They insist on their intention to continue violating the rights of these children. No general measure can be taken. They could say that they will assess their individual needs to assess whether or not to repatriate them to Morocco. It would be flawless. Affirming that ‘we will return the minors’ implies publicly stating that their rights will be violated again despite the fact that we already know that a significant number cannot be returned due to the difficulties in which they live there. Your basic budget is: we ignore your needs and attend exclusively to border control policy criteria.
The first thing that the Spanish authorities should do now to comply with the Law is to collect information in Morocco about the circumstances in which they were there.
The first thing is to inform each child that a repatriation procedure is going to be initiated and, if they reject it, appoint a judicial defender to initiate the procedure, something that the Government Delegation or the City’s Child Protection Service can do. . From there, reports must be obtained through the Foreign Office on the situation of his family and in his country of origin. Also to process allegations, take evidence, collect reports and resolve in no more than 6 months whether, in the best interests of the minor, their return, their referral to a third country or their stay in Spain proceed.
Until now, the Government of Ceuta has argued that by applying the Law it is “impossible” to complete a repatriation. It’s true?
No. When it has been tried either the mandatory reports have not been favorable or … It is not worth saying that applying the guarantees is not possible to achieve the objective and that, then, they must be laminated. The summary of what the Government says is that it is willing to skip the law to obtain repatriations even if it means violating rights.
Vivas and Sánchez have promised to put the necessary resources to process the files that are initiated as quickly as possible. Where should these media go looking for the best interests of the unaccompanied migrant minors in Ceuta?
If you really want to carry out an individual repatriation evaluation, the first thing is to guarantee a dignified reception. If the child is not well cared for, he will not have the confidence to confess that he has been a victim of family abuse, trafficking, sexual exploitation … Or that he was great at home. This reception is not feasible in Ceuta, transfers to the peninsula are necessary, because they also do not prevent the files from concluding that their return is best. They want to keep them in the autonomous city to throw them across the border when appropriate with expedited measures without guarantees. It is not worth keeping children in very bad condition to say that, given that they are in such a bad condition, the best thing is their repatriation. It is not worth mistreating them to use it as an excuse.
It is not worth keeping children in very bad condition to say that, given that they are in such a bad condition, the best thing is their repatriation. It is not worth mistreating them to use it as an excuse.
What will happen to minors who turn 18 years old during this announced filing period?
The legislation says that all minors who are in Spain must obtain a residence permit. If they turn 18 then they are still persons in a regular situation, but then the family repatriation procedure no longer fits.
Could Morocco make it difficult to finalize the files if it does not provide its documentation?
The procedure was activated within the framework of the attempt to restore bilateral relations between Spain and Morocco, which has just broken with Algeria and cannot stand up to all its neighbors. The neighboring country tightens the rope at its convenience, but it is surprising that Spain now says that it trusts it to protect and care for these children when two months ago we criticized that it had used them to blackmail us.
Would we return a minor to parents who have thrown their child into the sea or would we question their ability to exercise their guardianship? The Moroccan State could use them again, making it difficult for them to return, setting impossible conditions or, on the contrary, even facilitating those of those who do not meet the conditions: what will happen to LGBT minors or transsexuals, with those who are members of the Hirak and flee from repression… Are we also going to return them?
Have minors had the opportunity to request international protection in Ceuta?
We know that there is a group that has done so, but also that another important group is still pending to formalize its request and many others that have not even been able to receive information about the procedure. Until all this has been raised, any repatriation is absolutely illegal.
Do you think that the actions of the Sánchez and Vivas governments are also susceptible to criminal reproach?
If they persist in violating the right of these children to legal assistance or to have a legal defender, as intentional, yes. The Penal Code contemplates the crime against the exercise of fundamental rights. There is also the one of prevarication, but I believe that there would be even another previous one.
The Interior Minister wanted to wash his hands after the action taken. Are you clear about who has been responsible for the 55 expulsions carried out outside the law?
The competence to order and execute returns to Morocco lies with the Government Delegation, which acts by delegation from the Ministry of the Interior. There is documentation that proves that it was the latter who gave the order through the Secretary of State for Security. The First Vice Presidency of the Government of Ceuta asked to activate the Agreement with Morocco. That does not make her legally responsible, although she should never have allowed children under her care to be removed from assistance resources without a detailed and individual evaluation.