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55 people returned to Morocco from Spain in less than 24 hours
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On Sunday 21 October, 208 people managed to reach Spanish territory by climbing over the fences separating Morocco from the Spanish enclave of Melilla. One man died whilst doing so and another 19 were taken to hospital with "injuries, cuts and some other fractures," according to the Spanish government delegation in Melilla.
55 of the 208 were subject to "express" removal proceedings and returned to Morocco in less than 24 hours, with the Spanish government invoking a bilateral agreement signed with Morocco in 1992 to do so.
Some 30 lawyers brought in by the state interviewed all those who had arrived on Spanish territory. 140 people stated their desire to claim asylum and could not be returned, nor could three people identified as unaccompanied children. 10 of those injured remain in hospital or are recovering from their injuries.
On Saturday the Spanish government also returned to Morocco 30 people who arrived in Spain by boat, making use of the same agreement, which was signed in 1992 but only activated in 2012.
Earlier this year, in August, the agreement was used to facilitate the swift return of 116 of 118 people who arrived on Spanish territory.
Human Rights Watch observes that:
"The agreement, signed in 1992 but operational only since 2012, provides for minimal formalities to facilitate the return of third-country nationals."
In October 2017 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Spanish practice of "hot returns" (express removals) violates the prohibition on collective expulsions and the right to an effective remedy, protected under the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE), which is currently in government, last year abstained from voting on a motion that would have abolished "hot returns", when it was still part of the opposition.
Gabriela Sánchez, El Gobierno devuelve de forma exprés a 55 migrantes que saltaron la valla de Melilla este domingo, eldiario.es, 22 October 2018
España devuelve a Marruecos a parte de los 30 inmigrantes llegados en patera a Chafarinas, El Faro de Melilla, 20 October 2018
Pablo Rodero, Spain returns to Morocco migrants who stormed enclave fence, Reuters, 23 August 2018
Human Rights Watch, Spain/Morocco: Protect Migrants, Asylum Seekers, 24 March 2014
Spanish governing party refuses to abolish "hot returns" ruled illegal by ECHR, Statewatch News Online, 10 November 2017
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