The central government and that of Ceuta will launch the administrative machinery next week to, for the second time, try to return migrant minors who arrived in the autonomous city during the May crisis. After the attempt to repatriate them without complying with the legislation, stopped by the Justice, both executives will try again through the “route” established by the Immigration Law.
Patricia Fernández, lawyer: “To say that they will return the minors of Ceuta implies that they will once again violate their rights”
Two weeks after Pedro Sánchez made a commitment to the president of Ceuta, Juan Jesús Vivas, to activate all the resources at his disposal to achieve this, both administrations plan to have 31 extra workers to study each file, with funding from European funds, although there are many doubts that weigh on the procedure.
The Child Protection Service of Ceuta has already hired twelve social workers through the employment exchange opened in 2014, as well as eight interpreters of Dariya, the dialect Arabic spoken in northern Morocco, to begin prepare their individual studies on the best interests of each of the 539 children from the neighboring country who arrived in May that they currently host. The numbers of minors change “almost daily” in the different spaces where they are housed in conditions of “absolute precariousness”.
Having these reports is essential so that the Government Delegation can initiate the corresponding repatriation files on a case-by-case basis, something for which it will also need to have reports issued by the Kingdom of Morocco that detail, among other information, “those relating to the filiation of the minor and the social and family circumstances of his environment in the country of origin “. The General Commissariat for Immigration and Borders is in charge of requesting these analyzes from the neighboring country, a procedure that has not yet been carried out, as acknowledged this week by the delegate in Ceuta, Salvadora Mateos.
To address the completion of the “much paperwork” that, as he has warned, remains ahead to return the minors, the Government Delegation plans to count “as soon as possible” with 11 additional interim administrative officers who will come out of the applicants for the last oppositions to the Administration General of the State. Its mission will be “to take charge of the prior processing of the files and, if applicable, of the management of returns”, sources from the Delegation have specified.
The third institution that should be involved, the Juvenile Prosecutor’s Office, has already received a backup prosecutor to speed up the age determination tests for unaccompanied adolescents. So far only a little more than 400 have been carried out, less than half of the total estimated to remain in the city.
Personnel of the Public Ministry met on Monday with representatives of the central and local administration. The Prosecutor’s Office has not requested more reinforcements while waiting to know the “cruising speed” that the process reaches, since its intervention will only be the protagonist once, in its case, the Delegation can open the return files, which the Regulation of Aliens requires a resolution in a maximum of six months.
When deciding whether the return guarantees the best interests of the minor, the criterion of the Prosecutor’s Office, like all the others, is not binding. The resolution of each file falls on the delegate of the Government in Ceuta – dependent on the Ministry of the Interior – but, in any case, “must adopt it in a motivated way”, according to the legal sources consulted.
“Many” are the doubts that still hang over the execution, say sources linked to the process. The first refers to the lack of “certainty” as to whether Morocco will collaborate with “repatriations” of minors that comply with the legislation, since the neighboring country is often reluctant to accept formal return processes from a city over which it demands sovereignty. The Alawite government itself “blamed” the EU in May for not facilitating the return of its youngsters for too cumbersome and guaranteeing “procedures”.
In the event that the neighboring country cooperates and its authorities send the Moroccan rulings to the Ceuta Immigration Office, the Delegation may initiate repatriations if it understands that in light of its reports and those of the Minors’ Area of the City ” the best interest of the minor is satisfied by reuniting with his family or making him available to the protection services of his country of origin “.
However, according to the latest statements by the Government delegate in Ceuta, some organizations fear that the decision will be taken before starting the long procedure required by the Law. This week, before beginning to analyze case by case, Mateos settled that all migrant children alone “must be with their families or assisted by an entity that protects them, but in their country.” After his words, three NGOs have questioned “their ability to lead and objectively resolve the files”, to “guarantee an adequate evaluation and determination of the best interests of each child.” They have also doubted “their willingness to carry out the procedure with all the guarantees.”
More children on the street
Not only that. The Plafaforma de Infancia de España, Save The Children, Coordinadora de Barrios and ten other specialized entities have warned that public demonstrations of this nature only fuel “the flight from the protection centers of hundreds of children against the threat of being returned collectively and irregularly to the country of origin “.
It has already happened. At the end of July, in all the reception centers set up by the City, there were 746 unaccompanied Moroccan minors under the custody of the local administration, more than 200 more than those who are currently in the same situation. Not counting the 55 expelled to Morocco, at least 150 have chosen to survive on the streets, where organizations such as Maakum and No Name Kitchen carry the burden of accompaniment and care in the absence of a specialized public service.
The Autonomous City plans to reactivate before the end of this month the work program with single foreign minors who reject the protection resources of the University of Malaga, which between 2018 and 2019 provided medical and psychological care to hundreds and managed to convince dozens to agree to enter in centers or return to their families. To this end, the local Executive has reserved 121,000 euros in its budgets for this year, but its restoration is still pending the justification of several minor expenses of the last agreement, issues that are expected to be resolved “shortly”.
If the repatriation files are instructed, the minors must also be given a hearing (their opinion must be heard and argued against if they oppose the return, but it is not binding), offer them legal assistance and, where appropriate, appoint legal defenders , a responsibility that usually falls on the lawyers on duty. To prepare them, La Merced Migraciones and Save The Children have already offered the Ceuta Bar Association a specialized training program, an offer that the corporation will study next week, but which has been gladly received. The Raícs Foundation has asked the administrations involved to guarantee legal assistance to minors “throughout the entire procedure.”