Sub-Saharan migrants land at the Motril port near Granada | Credit: EPA
Sub-Saharan migrants land at the Motril port near Granada | Credit: EPA

The Spanish government's decision to lodge migrants landing on the country's coasts in a Malaga penitentiary has raised protest and has led to parliamentary interrogations.

Due to a lack of space in temporary facilities, the interior ministry last week made the decision to use the Malaga II penitentiary to host about 600 mostly Algerian migrants who arrived on about 49 vessels on the Andalusian coasts. 22 NGOs and human rights associations filed a complaint with the Ombudsman, calling the practice "absolutely illegal, both as concerns the law on foreigners and under European regulations''. 

Criticism from political world and NGOs 

In a joint statement, associations say the detentions are ''an act of unprecedented gravity'' and ''lacking any legal basis'', since Spanish law ''expressly prohibits temporary reception centers from being of a penitentiary character''. Caritas and the PSOE have filed complaints with Ombudsman Francisco Fernande Marugán. 

The Socialist group in the Congress has said that the government's decision is illegal since '' the migrants are not delinquents and do not deserve to be locked up in jail'' and presented a series of initiatives and parliamentary interrogations to demand explanations on the measure which ''violates fundamental rights'' of migrants. It noted that the Archidona penitentiary facilities are not functioning and asked whether the migrants ''will be subjected to the treatment of penitentiary facilities and what type of personnel are at the jail''. The Unidos Podemos parliamentary group has also criticized the measure through spokesperson Irene Montero. 

'Exceptional measure', Minister Zoido 

Interior minister Juan Igacio Zoido has said on the radio that the measure is of an exceptional nature to deal with ''successive waves of migrants'' that have landed on the coasts of Murcia and Malaga recently. ''The system has collapsed and, instead of creating temporary camps, we have decided to transfer these people to places with showers and heating,'' the minister told Onda Zero.

As concerns the internal organization of the Archidona jail, he noted that it ''does not have penitentiary personnel yet, not an incarceration system''. He said that for the moment, it has been opened as a reception center since it has advanced technology, an infirmary, enough beds and space for shared activities. The emergency measure is an attempt to deal with growing migration pressures. 

Since the beginning of the year, the minister noted, the arrival of migrants via sea in Spain has risen by 190 percent since 2016.

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