The Interior Minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, defended this Friday in the Congress of Deputies compliance with the legality of “all” the returns of migrants carried out in Ceuta after the irregular arrival of around 10,000 people in mid-May. To justify this, Marlaska has used the cooperation of the security forces with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to identify vulnerable profiles and thus avoid their expulsion. However, UNHCR has run to deny it: its intervention, says its spokesperson, has not ensured respect for the regulations.
“We cannot confirm that all the returns have been made in accordance with the law or voluntarily since we have received some testimonies from people who expressed their interest in seeking asylum and that they had been forcibly returned and, in some cases, with violence “, has responded the spokeswoman of Acnur in Spain in statements collected by elDiario.es.
During May 18 and 19, the security forces deployed on the beach of Tarajal systematically returned without any procedure a large part of the migrants who had swam to the Spanish shore, although the official figures are still unknown. These were expected by the military deployed in the area, who accompanied them to the border fence with Morocco where the Civil Guard opened a door located in the fence to proceed with their hot return. The forced return of minors, captured by the media, has led to the opening of an investigation by the Ceuta Prosecutor’s Office.
This Friday, the Minister of the Interior appeared for the first time in Congress to answer questions about migration after the city’s migration crisis. Despite the insistence of several deputies who requested more detailed information on the returns of migrants, including minors, carried out by the security forces during the days after the migration crisis in Ceuta, Grande-Marlaska has not provided the disaggregated figures of returns. voluntary and forced practices practiced during those days.
According to the minister, in less than 48 hours, the agents returned “through the legally established channels to more than 80% of the people who arrived” irregularly on May 17 and 18. “There was no illegal return, but all the people who returned did so in accordance with the law: voluntarily, or through the appropriate files,” he remarked.
To justify the safeguarding of the guarantees established in the regulations —which obliges the identification of people with a vulnerable profile to avoid their immediate return, such as minors, asylum seekers or victims of trafficking—, Marlaska has highlighted the cooperation of Acnur with security forces. “In Ceuta, we work with Acnur and the Red Cross in determining vulnerable profiles and cases susceptible to international protection. We cooperate at all times with Acnur. CEAR was also present [la Comisión Española de Ayuda al Refugiado]”He declared at the parliamentary headquarters.” We make a policy of protecting our borders and also respecting human rights. ”
His statement has prompted a quick response from the Spanish Committee of the UN Refugee Agency. “The UNHCR team has been in Ceuta since the first day of the crisis, supporting the response and helping the international protection protocols to be resumed, including access to the asylum procedure,” they explain to elDiario.es.
“We continue to work closely with the authorities in this regard but we cannot confirm that all returns have been made in accordance with the law or voluntarily since we have received some testimonies from people who expressed their interest in seeking asylum and who had been forcibly returned and, in some cases, violently. ”
In this sense, the Bildu deputy, Jon Iñarritu, has questioned the minister about the reference to the UN Agency in his defense of the legality of the collective returns practiced on the Ceuta border. “You say that they were all legally returned. I would like you to explain what procedure was used, if each of them were identified, why minors were expelled … You have somehow made Acnur an accomplice in those expulsions. If I were UNHCR, I would not be very happy or content, “said the parliamentarian.
After this intervention, Grande-Marlaska clarified to Iñarritu that the UN Agency “is not behind every person who returns or returns” to Morocco. “We coordinate, but they are not 100% following our actions and behaviors, but we have cooperation in matters of asylum and refuge. It conveyed a concern to us about vulnerable groups that could have entered.”
Throughout his appearance, the Interior Minister has stated on several occasions that the irregular arrival of between 8,000 and 10,000 people through the Tarajal breakwaters is not “a migratory crisis” but a “border crisis” in which “it was attacked border”. “They acted in a way that did not have migratory will, but the border was attacked,” insisted Grande-Marlaska.