Monday, May 23

The returns that Marlaska denies: “I was returned in a row along with hundreds of minors after a night in Ceuta”

After rounding the border breakwater of the Tarajal, Anas soon climbed a story to Instagram. The teenager, just turned 16, took a photo with several friends and wanted to highlight in the middle of the image the location of the place where he was: Ceuta. Behind them, you can identify the blue gates of the warehouses where the children who arrived in the city on May 17, 18 and 19 were housed. Anas sends the photograph to from Morocco, where he claims to have been forcibly returned the day after his arrival along with “hundreds” of minors after spending a night in Spain.

The Prosecutor’s Office opens an investigation into the hot returns of minors in Ceuta

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His testimony adds to the many evidences compiled by journalists and NGOs that document the irregularity that reigned in the Ceutí border during the migratory crisis, although the Interior Minister insists on defending that all returns complied with the law. “There was no illegal return, but all the people who returned did so in accordance with the law: voluntarily or through the appropriate files,” said Fernando Grande-Marlaska in the Interior Committee held on Friday in the Congress of Deputies.

Interior continues to defend the actions of border agents despite the opening of an investigation in the Ceuta Prosecutor’s Office, the warnings of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the numerous images and testimonies collected by journalists and NGOs that document returns without any prior procedure, including minors and potential asylum seekers, cases in which immediate returns are clearly prohibited in the regulations.

The clock stopped

Anas arrived in the autonomous city on Monday, May 17, the day Morocco began to lift border control with the autonomous city, which allowed the irregular entry of between 8,000 and 10,000 people, most of them swimming. When asked what time he entered, the teenager looks at his watch. In the water, he says, he was stopped and his needles still mark the exact time of his clandestine entry into Ceuta: 5:20 p.m.

“When we got out of the sea, the Red Cross came and took us to the ships. I spent the night there and the next morning they threw us all out,” says the teenager by video call from Catillejos, the Moroccan city where he lives. “I didn’t want to go out, no matter how much we said no, they were taking us out.”

According to his account, that night he spent with around 1,000 minors in the Tarajal polygon, sitting very close to each other, without the police barely allowing them to get up and without being able to lie down to rest. “We had to be seated and with our legs bent towards us. We were all minors. There were many of us. Throughout the day and night they left us with the same clothes, wet. They gave me almost no water and I was very hungry,” says the teenager. , whose appearance does not hide that he is a minor.

The return “in line” from the ships

The next day, he says, the agents put them “in line” to return them to Morocco. “As much as you didn’t want to go out, there was no option to say it. The policemen were around with the batons.” According to their testimony, the agents placed dozens of migrants, one after another, and accompanied them to the border area through the door that connects the warehouses where the migrant children were staying with the Tarajal pass.

“Since the border was closed, they took us to the beach [la zona conocida como ‘tierra de nadie’ ubicada entre dos espigones] and from there they opened a door in the fence that communicated with the Moroccan beach “, Anas details. Before the return, he says, they were given a bottle of water, cookies and a carton of milk.

As they approached the door, several officers urged them to get out quickly: “They yelled at us: ‘Run, run!’ They threatened us with the baton and more than one hit him. ” As he explains, agents of the Police, the Civil Guard and the military participated in all this process. “I wanted to get to Spain, like many children, to have more opportunities in life. They had told me that minors are not returned once they are in the centers, I never thought they would take me out again. They also tend to To say that children are treated well in Ceuta, but we were treated very badly, “he explains in the small grocery store where his father works.

“I worried a lot about him, but when he called me and told me he was already inside, I was calmer,” says his father. “When he returned, he was very tired and arrived very hungry. He told me that the police had treated him worse than in Morocco,” he adds.

Other documented cases

The account of the return of Anas coincides with the testimony of other minors collected by the media and social organizations. One of them is Ashraf, the first specific case of returns of minors registered during the migration crisis that prompted the investigation of the Ceuta Prosecutor’s Office, after a complaint from the NGO Coordinadora de Barrios in which it included images of their forced return to Morocco , recorded by Reuters agency.

“They are going to beat me,” Aschraf shouted before the cameras. “I don’t want to go back, please,” he implored after arriving in Ceuta by swimming with a float made of plastic bottles. At the end of the recording sent to the Prosecutor’s Office, several soldiers and a civil guard accompany him to the door of the border jetty to take him back to his country. The images of the photojournalist Olmo Calvo (one below) also documented this return in

The minor, 16 years old, told in an interview published in El País have been returned twice. In addition to the return documented by the press, the minor explains that the day before he had managed to reach Ceuta and spent the night from Tuesday to Wednesday in “a center”, predictably the Tarajal ship.

The next day, he was returned from the facilities where he spent the night, according to his account: “They put me in a center, where I spent the night. The next day they gave me a towel and some cookies and threw me out.” Another minor named Reduan, The 14-year-old also assured that he had been returned to his country after spending a few hours in the Ceutí industrial estate, but he tried again and, the second time, he managed to stay in the Spanish city.

In mid-May, especially throughout Tuesday 18 and Wednesday 19, the Ministry of the Interior returned hot in Ceuta to anyone who crossed the border jetty, including children, as reflected in numerous videos and images published in international and national press. The expulsions occurred after the entry of between 8,000 and 10,000 people to the autonomous city, a third of them children – according to the initial figures of the Government Delegation – after Morocco lifted the migratory control work at this point of its border with Spain. During those days, according to Interior, 80% of the people who entered the city were returned.

Unhcr calls for an investigation

According to the regulations, the expulsion of unaccompanied foreign minors can only be carried out if their parents are contacted in advance, the child’s willingness to return home is confirmed and the best interests of the minor are demonstrated. However, the military and civil guards returned the kids, visibly minors. The lack of an individualized study of each case, characteristic of these rejections, also prevents the detection of potential asylum seekers and victims of trafficking before they are forcibly returned, another of the profiles especially protected by the legislation. The UN Refugee Agency has received “some testimonies from people who expressed their interest in seeking asylum and who had been forcibly returned and, in some cases, with violence.”

Throughout his appearance on Friday, the minister avoided the numerous questions received about the expulsion of minors. Grande-Marlaska never once spoke of the returns of children, but insisted on the legality of “all” returns. To justify it, Marlaska has shielded himself in the cooperation of the security forces with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the identification of vulnerable profiles and thus avoid their expulsion, an extreme that UNHCR has not taken long to understand. deny.

The minister denied the irregularity linked to these returns despite the fact that the UN Agency claims to have made these episodes known to the Spanish authorities, which it describes as “these serious acts in terms of international protection.” The international body has also requested the opening of an investigation.

The Spanish Commission for Refugee Aid, which the minister also mentioned in his speech, reiterated that during those days of May there were “hot returns of possible applicants for international protection and minors.” The NGO specialized in asylum highlights that “to the extent that in these returns there has been no effective remedy, and in the absence of a procedure, the required legal guarantees have been breached.”