Migrants arriving to the port in Cadiz, Spain, on August 27, 2021 | Photo: EPA/Spanish National Police
Migrants arriving to the port in Cadiz, Spain, on August 27, 2021 | Photo: EPA/Spanish National Police

A group of 125 migrants was reportedly pushed back from the Spanish enclave of Peñón di Vélez de la Gomera to Morocco, according to various Spanish NGOs.

The migrants reached the small Spanish military enclave in North Africa during the night between Sunday and Monday. They were reportedly sent back to Morocco less than 24 hours later, even though most of them expressed the intention to seek asylum, according to the Spanish Commission for Refugees (CEAR), Caminando Fronteras, and a number of other NGOs.

More than 60 women among migrants

The migrants reportedly arrived through the small neck of sand that connects Peñón di Vélez de la Gomera to Morocco. Spanish daily El Pais reported that more than 60 women and eight children were among the group and that the migrants hailed from various African countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal, Mali and Guinea.

"The Spanish military handed us over to the Moroccan gendarmerie," one of the migrants told Spanish news site elDiario.es. "We filled out the asylum application and gave it to the Spanish soldiers, but they gave it back to us." According to the Cameroonian man, sick people and pregnant women were among those pushed back to Morocco.

Asylum cases allegedly not examined

It's not unlikely that some of the asylum seekers among the group had a right to international protection, based on data from Eurostat, the data agency of the European Union (EU). Almost half of all first-time requests from Malians in the EU were accepted in the first three months of 2021; and over a quarter of requests from Guineans.

The NGOs that made the alleged pushback public said the Spanish ombudsman had been informated and had sent a reminder to the Spanish Interior Ministry that the authorities had to examine asylum seekers' cases one by one before moving forward with any procedures against them. Pushbacks -- sending back migrants or refugees across a border without individually examining their asylum cases -- violates international and Spanish asylum law; though there are some controversial exemptions to this.

In response to an information request by ANSA, the interior ministry said on Tuesday that it "doesn't currently have information" regarding the incident.


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