New investigation challenges European Court of Human Rights ruling on pushbacks

Black Sub-Saharan refugees are given no legal pathways to enter Spain


London/Berlin – A new investigation by Forensic Architecture shows that as a result of racist policies at the Spanish-Moroccan border, black Sub-Saharan nationals have no legal pathways to enter and claim protection in Spain. The report, produced by FA in partnership with the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), critically undermines a February 2020 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in the case of ND and NT v. Spain, demonstrating that the arguments presented by Spain, and accepted by the court, are false.

The case, supported by ECCHR, concerns the forcible expulsion or push-back of two men from Mali and Ivory Coast who crossed the border fences between Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Melilla in August 2014. ND and NT were returned to Morocco with no due process, no opportunity to challenge their expulsion, and no chance to apply for protection. However, their individual complaints were dismissed by the court’s Grand Chamber.

More cases on Spain’s pushback policies are pending in front of the ECtHR, for which the case of ND and NT could set a dangerous new precedent. One such case is “Danny” v. Spain, in which a Congolese man was returned unconscious to Moroccan authorities as a result of being beaten by the Guardia Civil at the Melilla border fence in October 2014. The case is supported by the Spanish NGO Andalucía Acoge. This video investigation has been submitted as evidence in that case.

Using spatial analysis, official data, human rights reports, and witness testimony, the investigation shows that Spanish and Moroccan authorities have constructed a system which denies black people from Sub-Saharan Africa the possibility to apply for protection in Melilla, or at nearby embassies. Both of these avenues were specifically cited before the ECtHR by Spain, and served as justification for the Court to accept that the pushbacks were not in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Christina Varvia, FA’s deputy director, said: “Spain’s claims regarding legal entry procedures are contradicted not only by multiple reports and testimonies, but also by its own evidence. Nevertheless, the court accepted Spain’s arguments and dismissed those of the claimants. Our study outlines the concrete practices by which Spain’s policy of structural racism operates on the ground. Europe continues to systematically discriminate against black migrants and refugees.”

Hanaa Hakiki, ECCHR legal advisor, added: “To deliver justice, the court must probe states’ affirmations properly. The court’s denial of the reality at the fence in the judgment against ND and NT was a further blow to those experiencing violence and racism at Europe’s borders.”

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Maria Bause
T: +49 30 69819797

Philipp Jedamzik
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