Human rights groups have criticized Spain for sending hundreds of unaccompanied minors back to Morocco from Ceuta, the country’s North African enclave. These deportations, which the rights groups say are illegal, have prompted worries over a lack of transparency from Spanish officials. The operation was reportedly not officially announced, and authorities were not immediately available for questioning by news agencies.
According to Amnesty International spokesperson Ángel Gonzalo, the expulsion began on Friday and continued over Saturday. Local radio stations reported groups of children being taken in vans over the border from Ceuta. The groups writing to the Ministry of Interior are reportedly demanding more transparency and an end to the deportations, which, according to Gonzalo, “violate international law.”
Among the rights groups perturbed by the move was Save the Children, which has accused the Spanish government of failing to protect children’s rights. The international non-governmental organization has denounced Spain for failing to “guarantee… the protection of minors,” calling on Spanish authorities to consider the circumstances of each child rather than returning them en masse. According to interviews the organization conducted, a quarter of the children deported were fleeing from abuse in their home country. Spain is legally required to look after young migrants until their guardians or relatives can be found or until they come of age. As such, there are concerns that asylum seekers, especially unaccompanied children, are not receiving their due process.
Politicians within Spain have also criticized how hushed up the deportations seem to be. Ione Belarra, leader of Podemos, the junior political party of Spain’s ruling coalition, said the deportations may be happening “without strict observance” of Spanish and international laws.
Rights groups have been voicing concern over Spain’s lack of transparency and failure to observe due process of law in its deportations since May. The minors deported Friday are the last of a group of around 10,000 migrants who crossed Ceuta’s border at that time. Spain accused Morocco of letting the migrants in by relaxing its border controls in retaliation for Spain’s decision to provide medical treatment to Brahim Ghali. (Ghali is the head of the Polisario Front, an independence movement fighting Morocco.) The speed with which Spain returned these migrants drew criticism from human rights organizations.
Spain’s failure to be forthright about these children’s repatriation is disturbing, especially when so many of them are fleeing abuse. Furthermore, the speed of the process and the lack of information provided raises questions about whether Spanish authorities are sufficiently protecting the children they’re deporting. If there are indeed legal violations and children are being returned to dangerous situations, then there must be consequences.
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