Spanish authorities systematically and often violently expel refugees and migrants at the border with Morocco. This long-standing practice of push-backs is unlawful as was ruled by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg in October 2017. Following a request from Spain, the Grand Chamber of the ECtHR heard again the case of N.D. and N.T. in September 2018.
The proceedings came in response to two complaints against Spain brought to the ECtHR in February 2015 by N.D. and N.T. from Mali and the Ivory Coast. The complaints were filed on the initiative and with the expertise of ECCHR. The Court's decision states that Spain's push-back practices at the Spanish-Moroccan border are in violation of Article 4 Protocol 4 (Prohibition of Collective Expulsions) and Article 13 (Right to an Effective Remedy) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The two complainants are represented in court by ECCHR's partner lawyers Carsten Gericke (Hamburg) and Gonzalo Boye (Madrid). The complaint is supported by Brot für die Welt.
N.D. and N.T. (whose names are anonymized for their protection) crossed the border fence structure in Melilla and entered Spain on 13 August 2014. The Spanish Guardia Civil apprehended them, along with approximately 70 other individuals from sub-Saharan Africa who also had climbed the fences. They were immediately "pushed back" to Morocco – without access to any legal procedures or protection.
As soon as they climbed on the border fence, they were stopped by the Guardia Civil. Spanish authorities then let Moroccan security forces into the fence area to "take back" the people on the fence. Video footage from that day shows that they were subjected to violence by the Moroccan security forces who hit and kicked them – while the Guardia Civil looked on – before pushing them back to Morocco through a gate in the fence.
The incident on 13 August 2014 is not an isolated case. Spanish authorities keep no records of these automatic expulsions, so official figures are not available. However, media reports indicate a minimum total of 1,000 summary deportations in 2014 alone.
The practice known as "hot returns" or "push-backs" has been in place since 2005. On 13 August 2014 and up until April 2015, this practice had no legal basis in Spanish law and relied only on an internal "operative protocol" of the Guardia Civil in Ceuta and Melilla.
Q&A: The Melilla case before the ECtHR.