More than a year has passed since the return, without procedure, of dozens of minors from Ceuta to Morocco, but the origin of the operation, which is being investigated by a court in Ceuta, is still unclear. The vice president and counselor for the Presidency and Institutional Relations of the Executive of Ceuta, María Isabel Deu, assured before the Prosecutor’s Office of the autonomous city that “the head of the minors’ area always stated that the repatriation of the immigration law had to be applied”, it is In other words, he defended the application of the procedure established by Spanish regulations, something that ultimately did not occur in the repatriation of 56 of the children and adolescents who arrived during the migration crisis of May 2021.
This is stated in the statement, to which Europa Press has had access, that Deu provided as a “witness” before the Ceuta Prosecutor’s Office on December 10, 2021. As a result of this and other statements that were made in the framework of the proceedings carried out by the Public Ministry, a complaint was filed last June before the Courts of the autonomous city for alleged continued crime of administrative prevarication against the Government delegate, Salvadora Mateos, and Deu herself.
The head of the Investigating Court number 2 of Ceuta admitted the complaint made against both for processing, understanding that “they voluntarily and knowingly omitted the legal provisions and the procedure established in the current legal system without verifying the concurrence of the legal assumptions that thus allow it in a rule of law”. Deu and Mateos are summoned to testify on September 7.
As explained by the vice president of Ceuta to the Prosecutor’s Office, “the head of the minors area always stated that the repatriation of the immigration law had to be applied” and “requested that said procedure be presented to the Ministry of the Interior.” Deu, according to what she declared before the Public Ministry, considered that the “legal doubts” that were raised “were not transcendent” and that they were “solved” in one of the meetings held that August.
Thus, the local vice president assured that she had no doubts about the “competence and capacity on the part of Morocco to regroup minors with their families” and indicated that she believed that the agreement signed with the neighboring country was “the appropriate one, given the situation of urgency”. She finally opted for the 2007 agreement. However, said pact requires compliance with national and international legislation, which includes following an administrative procedure.
The now investigated insisted that “the protection teams were overwhelmed because the juvenile center was collapsed.” For this reason, as a result of an emergency decree, they contracted the services of entities “with a lot of experience in this type of matter” and met with an NGO “to see the vulnerability that minors could have.”
As he indicated, “they located relatives of the minors and interviewed them to determine their vulnerability.” She, however, acknowledged that she “did not know who the families of origin were” nor did she know the files because she did not have access, even though she said she had requested the documents.
In line, Deu explained that from the local Executive “they entered into conversations with the Government of Spain and requested the promotion of the 2007 agreement and the return of the minors to their homes with their families, who requested it from the Government Delegation”. In this sense, he specified that they maintained “direct and daily contact” with the central Executive through the Vice Presidency of the Government, the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Ministry of the Interior.
meeting at the border
In the framework of his statement, Deu indicated that they were called to a “meeting” at the border on August 11 with the Spanish and Moroccan authorities in order to “see how that return was going to be carried out and verify that the minors did not have a situation of vulnerability.
The head of the Government Delegation, the general secretary, the vice president and the head of the service of the area of protection of minors attended said meeting, he stressed. There it was discussed “what was the procedure to follow so that the minor could meet with her family” and it was specified that “they had to receive later the data of the relatives of the returned minors”.
As Deu explained to the Public Ministry, the head of the protection service area “was not in agreement with the repatriation procedure of the 2007 agreement.” Deu herself, however, considered that it was “appropriate” to start it due to the “extraordinary situation”, although it had not been applied in the past.
Thus, they proceeded to return the minors who were “older” and who “were not in a vulnerable situation.” Deu said he had not received any report, but indicated that “on a daily basis” he saw that “vulnerable minors were sent to the peninsula, to another community, and that those who stayed in Ceuta were protected.”
Deu assured that “individualized interviews were carried out with all the minors” and that “there was a lot of staff dedicated to it”, something that has been denied by the Prosecutor’s Office and by NGOs such as Save The Children. According to Deu, later, the minors were “identified at the border by the Moroccan authorities.” According to him, he assured that they were also interviewed there, they took their fingerprints and “located their next of kin to return them”; Otherwise, “they were admitted to a center.”
“What he knows is that there were farewells with applause, the departure of the minors with their personal belongings that later got on the bus voluntarily,” the Public Ministry reports in the transcript of his statement. Within the framework of his appearance, however, Deu assured that “some filed habeas corpus” –that is, they asked to appear before a judge immediately so that he could decide on their arrest– and they were taken to court.