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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Top Spain court backs rapid migrant deportations

A refugee walks around a temporary migrant shelter in Ceuta, Spain [Getty]

Date of publication: 20 November, 2020

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Spain's top court backed the immediate deportation of migrants who enter the country's North African enclaves.

Spain's Constitutional Court on Thursday backed the rapid deportation of migrants who illegally enter the country's North African enclaves, Ceuta and Melilla, a practice criticised by rights groups.

The court said in a statement that it had validated almost all of a 2015 security law, including allowing for the immediate return of migrants who illegally cross over into the two small territories from Morocco.

On the Mediterranean coast, Ceuta and Melilla are the European Union's only land borders with Africa.

Each year, thousands of migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, try to scale the fences that surround the territories to make it into Spain in the hope of obtaining asylum.

The court ruled that the "special regime for Ceuta and Melilla allowing the pushback of foreigners who try to enter illegally... is in line with the doctrine of the European Court of Human Rights".

It said the deportations must respect the "guarantees" granted migrants under international treaties which have been signed by Spain, and that "special attention" should be given to the more vulnerable such as minors and pregnant women.

Rights groups have long criticised rapid deportations in Ceuta and Melilla, arguing that skipping the lengthier deportation procedures deprives people of the chance to claim asylum.

The European Court of Human Rights in February reversed a previous ruling it made condemning such rapid deportations as a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights following Spain's appeal.

The court ruling only applies to Ceuta and Melilla, where the number of migrants who illegally enter dropped by 70 percent this year to around 1,500 over the same time in 2019.

But while arrivals have fallen in the two enclaves, they have soared in Spain's Canary Islands, off the west coast of Morocco.

Over 16,700 migrants have reached the archipelago so far this year, 11 times the number that arrived during the same period last year, according to interior ministry figures.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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