The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) yesterday upheld the summary return of two young sub-Saharan migrants who were expelled in Melilla in 2014 and thus overturned the sentence handed down by the same court against Spain in 2017. The appeal against this sentence was lodged by the government of Mariano Rajoy and maintained by Pedro Sánchez. despite the commitment of the PSOE to put an end to these summary returns.
In the opinion of the judges of the Strasbourg court, the two migrants – from Mali and Côte d’Ivoire – who jumped over the fence in Melilla in August 2014 “deliberately” put themselves in an “illegal” position by deciding to enter Spain through an “unauthorized” point and outside the “legal procedures”, so their expulsion was legal.
The Court thus overturned the sentence imposed by this same court against Spain in October 2017 for the summary (or hot) return of the two young migrants. On that occasion, the ECtHR established that Spain had violated the European Convention on Human Rights because it was a collective expulsion without any effective possibility of judicial remedy. However, the same Court yesterday upheld the appeal lodged against that conviction by Mariano Rajoy’s government, which had regularized the summary returns in 2015 within the framework of the Law on Citizen Security.
The hot returns were strongly criticised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW), and even by the European Commission and the Council of Europe. The PSOE itself, while still in opposition, committed itself to paralyze them and even filed an appeal in 2015 against the Citizen Security Law, on which the Constitutional Court has not yet ruled.
Despite this, not only were the summary returns not interrupted after the Socialists’ arrival in government (“in compliance with the legislation in force”), but the appeal was even upheld. As the main argument for not stopping these returns, the Executive of Pedro Sánchez hid behind the need to wait for the sentence of the Court of Strasbourg.
The Spanish Refugee Aid Commission (CEAR), which intervened as a third party in the lawsuit along with other entities, yesterday described the Strasbourg decision as “discouraging” and warned that this ruling “should not be understood as a general legal support for collective expulsions, especially considering that the Grand Chamber justifies its decision in that these people could have requested asylum at the border post of Melilla, despite the fact that no person of sub-Saharan origin has been able to access this post since its creation”.