Spanish authorities systematically and often violently expel refugees and migrants at the border with Morocco. This long-standing practice of push-backs at the external borders of the European Union (EU) is unlawful. Automatic expulsions violate the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), as the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled in Strasbourg on 3 October 2017.
The judgment came in response to two complaints against Spain brought to the ECtHR in February 2015 by two refugees from Mali and Côte d'Ivoire based on the initiative and 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) ECHR.
Upon request by Spain the case will be considered by the Grand Chamber of the court. However, following the government change in June 2018 the new Minister of Justice announced to review thoroughly and probably even stop the practice of push-backs.
N.D. and N.T. (whose names are anonymized for protection reasons) 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 overcome the fences, in order to literally "push" them back to Morocco immediately – without access to any legal procedures or protection. Their complaints are supported by ECCHR in cooperation with Brot für die Welt, and they are represented by ECCHR's partner lawyers in Madrid and Hamburg.
On 13 August 2014, a group of individuals from sub-Saharan Africa managed to reach Spanish territory by using one of the few routes available to them: scaling the fence between Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Melilla. Once they entered Spanish territory, most of them were stopped by the Spanish Guardia Civil within the Spanish border fence structure. Spanish authorities then invited Moroccan security forces within this fence structure to "take back" these individuals. Some suffered great violence and disappeared into the hands of Moroccan security forces. Others escaped ill-treatment by balancing at the top of the fences, waiting to be identified and processed in accordance with Spanish immigration law. Without exception, each was simply handcuffed, escorted through the border fence structure and handed over to the Moroccan authorities. They were given no due process and no opportunity to challenge their expulsion. It is reported that on that day, over 70 unidentified individuals were summarily expelled into Morocco. No one knows how many of them would have been entitled to international protection. The incident on 13 August 2014 is not an isolated case. Spanish authorities keep no records of these automatic expulsions, so numerical figures are not available.
Q&A: The Melilla case before the ECtHR.