The shortcut agreed by the Government of Ceuta, the Ministry of the Interior and Morocco to return in groups of 15 aboard vans without conducting individual files and without giving a hearing to these children and adolescents has run aground in a court of the autonomous city. In two consecutive proceedings, the judge has decided to paralyze this device, which is not complying with all the requirements established by the Immigration Law. The Prosecutor’s Office, the Ombudsman, UN agencies and NGOs that work with these minors had warned as soon as they had news that the operation was illegal. The Government tried to hide behind a report from the State Attorney that endorsed the repatriations appealing to the “exceptional situation”, but the court has ratified the suspension of the transfers. And incidentally aggravates a crisis that keeps the government of Pedro Sánchez divided, with the ministries of Podemos against it, warning of the serious consequences that this decision has “the sole responsibility of the Ministry of the Interior.”
The government’s lurch in immigration: from welcoming the Aquarius to returning minors without complying with the Aliens Act
So far, Sánchez had dismissed the matter with a couple of sentences that appealed to make the care of minors compatible, coexistence in Ceuta and respect for the laws. “At all times what we have done has been to take care of the minors, together with the authorities of the autonomous city, the NGOs and the Kingdom of Morocco. Now what we have to do is respond to a double dimension of this crisis. First, that of the more than a thousand minors in Ceuta right now and, secondly, to respond to the complex balance of coexistence in the city, “said Sánchez. “Logically, since it is a full democracy, as is Spain, we will be attentive and respond to any of the requirements that the courts pose to us.”
This Tuesday, a few hours after the order of the Ceutí court was known, Moncloa announced the appointment of the president with the highest authority of the autonomous city, Juan Jesús Vivas, in Moncloa. It is one of the first meetings that the president holds when he returns from his vacation at the residence of La Caleta in the Canary Islands. The matter is delicate because practically since his arrival in La Moncloa, Sánchez promised a new direction in immigration policy, opened the ports to the Aquarius and said he wanted to mark another path in Europe. That has been more than three years and now it is a judge who is pointing out the Ministry of the Interior for breaking the law in the return of children and adolescents to Morocco.
With the appointment in Moncloa this morning, Sánchez personally assumes the management of the crisis. His interlocutor, the Ceuta president, of the PP, has supported from minute one the procedure that had previously been agreed by the Interior, which in turn had paved the way with the Moroccan authorities.
Solutions for Moroccan minors
The paralysis of the returns of minors pushes Sánchez and the Ceuta president to seek another answer at the meeting for the nearly 800 Moroccan minors who arrived in Ceuta during the diplomatic crisis with Morocco, who still remain in the autonomous city housed in precarious conditions in temporary spaces set up in sports centers, prefabricated modules and in the only center for minors in the city. These possible solutions may involve finding adequate spaces to accommodate Moroccan children and adolescents, but it seems complicated in a city of just 20 kilometers without the support of the central government and the rest of the autonomous communities. Another option is to promote a new attempt to return the Moroccan kids; this time, under the channels established by Spanish legislation, something that in practice is not usually carried out due to the complication linked to the process of proving the best interests of the minor in each case.
The proximity of the beginning of the school year would also oblige to carry out the necessary procedures to educate minors. Days before, the start of the operation for the return of minors, the government delegate in the city had been so “optimistic” that, without specifying yet the specific reason, she hoped she would not have to “worry” about these kids in September. Everything indicates that it will have to.
The Government of Ceuta trusts the meeting with Sánchez
Ceuta Government sources have shown this Tuesday their “confidence” that Sánchez and Vivas find this Wednesday a “viable” formula to resolve the “unsustainable” situation in which the local Executive insists that the city is with between 2,500 and 3,000 Moroccan adults and minors sheltered by the local administration or surviving in “subhuman” settlements. Once the express repatriation failed, whose implementation was received as an unexpected lifeline, the local Executive continues to consider that removing this group of people is a matter of “survival.” “It is not a problem of money, which is also a problem, but of having a future,” he warns.
“We remain confident that there is political will in the central government to try to resolve the situation and it will be necessary to see if it is possible with transfers to the peninsula or by resuming the repatriation formulas based on the 2007 Agreement, despite the legal requirements that it imposes. Our regulations for its execution make it seem almost impossible, “local Executive sources have indicated to elDiario.es.
The president of the City, Juan Vivas (PP) has defended without hesitation the “joint and coordinated action” that was followed with the Interior to carry out the suspended expulsions, the beginning of which he called a “historic milestone.” “It was the Government of Ceuta,” he acknowledged last week, although the Justice has exempted him from jurisdictional responsibility, “which asked the Nation to apply the Agreement signed and in force between Spain and Morocco in 2007: negotiations were established with Rabat which I presume to be very complex and it was possible to act effectively in matters of irregular immigration, ensuring the best interests of the minor “.
Tuning in the speeches of Marlaska and Vivas
Despite belonging to opposite political formations, Fernando Grande-Marlaska (PSOE) and Juan Jesús Vivas (PP) have shown harmony in the defense of the returns of minors. His speeches, although nuanced, contained similar arguments. Both have referred to the “exceptionality” situation experienced in the city during the diplomatic crisis with Morocco and the “humanitarian emergency” linked to the conditions in which Moroccan kids are welcomed in the Spanish enclave as a justification for resorting to express return as the only way out. The interior and local government have also repeatedly cited the agreement sealed between Spain and Morocco in 2007 to protect repatriations that did not comply with the procedure established by the Immigration Law.
The Ceuta court has discredited each of these arguments. In the last order, in addition to reiterating that the pact with Morocco does not exempt from complying with national and international regulations, it has also settled that the situation of “exceptionality” of the city is not an excuse for failing to comply with the legislation. “The number of minors in Ceuta due to the situation that occurred on May 17” does not justify “non-compliance with the legal provisions,” says the order.
The Ceuta court has resolved the controversy that arose over which was the institution responsible for the return operation. This is the only point at which the speeches of Grande-Marlaska and Vivas diverged, albeit always in a friendly tone. While Interior unloaded the responsibility on the Government of Ceuta, the local Executive pointed to Interior as the competent institution in the activation of the agreement with Morocco and the negotiation of the conditions. The Ceuta court has decided that the Government Delegation, dependent on the Interior, is the body responsible for developing the files for the return of unaccompanied foreign minors. The documentation provided to the courts indicated that the city requested the application of the pact and the Interior ordered the start of the device to the Government Delegation.
In the Executive of Ceuta there are those who fear that the Moroccan demand to accept only 15 minors alone a day instead of the massive expulsion that was intended, which de facto lengthened the return of all those who continue in the city by almost two months, it was not really a “poison gift” to see the operation around the corner fail because of its legal weaknesses.
There are also voices within the local government that assume that it could have been “reckless, no matter how much the” get involved in the execution of the procedure agreed with the Interior “against the criteria of our Child Protection Service”, whose closed defense of legality has caused deep discomfort in the leadership of the regional Executive. For their part, Interior sources refuse to assess the latest resolution of the Ceuta court: “This ministry does not value judicial decisions; out of respect, it abides by them.”