The Spanish NGO Caminando Fronteras in a statement accused the Spanish authorities of illegally returning to Morocco 42 migrants who landed on the Spanish Chafarinas islands by boat on Friday.
The statement was co-signed by over 60 other human rights organizations. Caminando Fronteras ('Walking Border') denounced what they called the immediate expulsion of sub-Saharan migrants who landed on the Spanish Chafarinas islands on Friday. Caminando Fronteras is calling for an investigation into potential human rights violations.
The Spanish coast guard allegedly returned the migrants to Moroccan authorities hours after they landed on Spanish soil. Caminando Fronteras claims this is a violation of the protections afforded by the European Court of Human Rights, which states that undocumented persons arriving on European soil have a right to information, to care and to have their asylum claims processed.
"Border control and the containment of migratory flows cannot under any circumstance violate current laws," the statement said.
While Spanish government delegates in the Spanish enclave of Melilla confirmed to the Associated Press (AP) that around 40 migrants were returned to Morocco on Friday, they also said in a statement that the migrants were rescued by Moroccan authorities at sea and not on Spanish territory.
Helena Maleno, a prominent activist and member of Caminando Fronteras, dismissed the statement as false. Maleno on Twitter published a photograph received from one of the migrants in the group, showing a person sitting on top of rocks, wrapped in a plastic gab in an attempt to shield himself from the wind.
Maleno also published GPS signals shared by the migrants with Caminando Frontera to prove that the migrants had in fact reached the Spanish territory of the Chafarinas islands, located just 3.5 kilometers from the coast of Morocco.
In an audio message, reportedly by one of the migrants, a woman speaking in French describes being taken back to Morocco by the Spanish Guardia Civil. "We thought they had taken us to Melilla, but then we heard people talking Arabic. That's when we realized that they were not Spanish and that we were in Morocco." The audio was published on Caminando Frontera's twitter feed.
A Spanish information site reports that among the 42 migrants, there were 26 women and two children of 3 and 4 years of age. The group included sick people and various people who had voiced their intention of applying for asylum, including at least two people from Ethiopia, a country of origin of many refugees, eldiario.es reports.
"It wasn't just a push-back at the entrance, these people were waiting for hours in Spanish territory without any assistance," Maleno told the AP.