A Deadly Journey for Children: Spain Defends Child Deportations to Morocco

Written by | Wednesday, August 18th, 2021

Spain’s interior minister has denied violating international law by sending unaccompanied child migrants back to Morocco. Speaking on Spanish radio, Fernando Grande-Marlaska defended his government’s policy, saying the refugees “wanted to go home”. This comes after Spain was urged to halt the repatriation of hundreds of unaccompanied minors who crossed into the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in May. International human rights groups have denounced the country’s expulsion of hundreds of unaccompanied children to Morocco, calling the deportations illegal and urging an immediate halt to the process. Amnesty International spokesman Angel Gonzalo said the deportations of minors and refugees began on Friday and continued on Saturday (13-15 August). The Spanish radio station Cadena Ser said that 15 children have been deported from Spain’s North African enclave of Ceuta so far.
But Grande-Marlaska told the media that the return of the children from the Spanish enclave of Ceuta was “not an expulsion”. “The best interest of the child is guaranteed,” he said, adding that vulnerable children were not sent back. Spain’s interior ministry has not officially announced the repatriations and did not immediately respond to requests for comment or confirm the numbers of children affected. Spain is legally obliged to care for young migrants until their relatives can be located or until they turn 18. Hundreds of unaccompanied children were among a surge of 10,000 people who tried to enter Ceuta in May by scaling a border fence or swimming around it. Morocco has since taken back most of the migrants. The child migrants are being returned in groups of 15, with some 800 child migrants earmarked for return.
Since last Friday, groups of fifteen children have been repatriated under a 2007 agreement between Spain and Morocco for assisted returns, once children’s cases had been considered. “We are writing to the Ministry of Interior asking them to stop these expulsions immediately, and asking for transparency over their actions,” Gonzalo said on Saturday (14 August), adding the Amnesty International was speaking with prosecutors as “these expulsions violate international law”. Three days later, on Monday, a Spanish court suspended the repatriation of twelve young migrants who had asked the Spanish government for their help to stay. Patricia Fernandez Vicens, a lawyer for the NGO, Coordinadora de Barrios, told AFP that the children are being returned to Morocco without access to legal representation, and welcomed the verdict. The judicial decision is at least a temporary setback for the Spanish government, which has also faced opposition from its coalition partner Podemos over the repatriations.

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