The European court backs Spain’s rapid deportation of sub-Saharan migrants to Morocco

In an unpresented move, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in favor of Spain, which handed two sub-Saharan migrants who tried to enter Melilla to the Moroccan authorities. The court’s ruling has been criticized for «encouraging hot returns».

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The European Court of Human Rights ruled, Thursday, that Spain acted lawfully when it deported two sub-Saharan migrants who tried to enter one of its north African enclaves. The court found that Madrid did not violate the European Convention on Human Rights by sending these two migrants to Morocco.  

«The court considered that the applicants had in fact placed themselves in an unlawful situation when they had deliberately attempted to enter Spain … by crossing the Melilla border protection structures as part of a large group and at an unauthorized location, taking advantage of the group’s large numbers and using force», the court said.

«Consequently, the court considered that the lack of individual removal decisions could be attributed to the fact that the applicants – assuming that they had wished to assert rights under the convention – had not made use of the official entry procedures existing for that purpose, and that it had thus been a consequence of their own conduct», it added.

The European court under fire for backing Spain's «hot returns»

The European court’s ruling comes three years after it «unanimously ruled Spain had violated rules that prohibit collective expulsion and had denied the right of effective remedy». The recent ruling comes after Spain filed an appeal against the court’s previous decision.

However, human rights groups have criticized the European court for its Thursday ruling, which to them encourages «hot returns». Indeed, the general secretary of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights told the Guardian that «the decision completely ignores the reality at European borders, and particularly the situation of sub-Saharan Africans at the Spanish-Moroccan frontier».

«Moreover, it will be perceived as a carte blanche for violent push-backs everywhere in Europe … Push-backs at the border to Morocco are a longstanding Spanish practice, which has become a model for other states along the European Union’s external land borders», Wolfgang Kaleck added.

For the record, the migrants in question are two men for Mali and Ivory Coast, who tried alongside hundreds of migrants, to climb the fence separating Morocco from Melilla in August 2014. The two men were arrested by the Guardia Civil and were handed over to the Moroccan authorities.

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