The Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH) accused Spain on Monday (24) of illegally returning 40 refugees from Yemen, including a minor. The migrants were in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, Africa, in another chapter of the migration crisis that unfolded between Spain and Morocco last week.
According to the AMDH published on Facebook, these refugees had been registered and accommodated in the reception center for asylum seekers before the crisis and were forcibly taken to the Moroccan border by the Spanish police and army.
The expulsion is a “serious violation of the rights of these migrants, recognized as refugees by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees,” Omar Naji, a member of the organization, told AFP news agency. Last week around 10,000 migrants attempted to reach Ceuta via Tarajal beach – Morocco is 200 meters away. Many tried to swim to the enclave, while others attempted to cross the land border, protected by a double fence.
A spokesperson for Spain’s Interior Ministry said 7,500 migrants had already been returned to Morocco, but could not specify how many were minors. NGOs have warned that unaccompanied minors cannot be returned without a detailed examination of their situation.
According to local authorities, around a thousand people in this situation are still in the Spanish enclave. The unaccompanied minors are scattered around the small town of about 85,000 inhabitants or in centers run by the authorities, who must study each case to see if they return to Morocco or remain in Spain.
Several NGOs have also denounced the treatment of migrants during this wave of migration to Ceuta. Amnesty International said, for example, that some of them, including minors, were beaten by Spanish security forces and demanded an investigation.
The migration crisis began with the relaxation of border surveillance by Morocco, in a context of diplomatic tensions with Spain, due to the presence in the European country of the leader of the independence movement of Western Sahara.
The Moroccan government reacted with indignation to the news that the leader of the Polisario Front, Brahim Ghali, has been hospitalized since mid-April in a Spanish hospital to be treated for the Covid-19.
The African country claims the leader traveled on a fake passport and calls for a transparent investigation into his arrival in Spain, justified by Madrid on humanitarian grounds. The Algerian-backed Polisario Front has been fighting for decades for the independence of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony controlled mainly by Morocco, which wants to keep the region under its command.
Ceuta and Melilla, the other Spanish enclave in North Africa, are the European Union’s only land borders with Africa, making them two important gateways for irregular migrants looking for a better life.