Spanish government unlawfully sent child migrants back to Morocco, top court rules

  • Spain’s Supreme Court ruled that authorities acted illegally by sending unaccompanied child migrants back to Morocco.
  • The surge included hundreds of unaccompanied minors, many believed to be sub-Saharan migrants seeking a better life in Europe.
  • Spain’s Interior Ministry defended the action, claiming the children wanted to go home, and denied accusations of breaching international law.

Spain’s Supreme Court ruled Monday that authorities acted illegally when they sent unaccompanied child migrants back to Morocco after thousands of people forced their way from the North African country onto Spanish soil in 2021.

Hundreds of unaccompanied minors were among a surge of around 10,000 people who tried to enter Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in North Africa, by scaling a border fence or swimming around it.

Many were believed to be sub-Saharan migrants seeking a better life in Europe. Morocco later took back most of the migrants.

SPAIN’S CANARY ISLANDS SEE RECORD NUMBERS OF AFRICAN MIGRANTS SEEKING BETTER LIVES

Spain’s Interior Ministry defended sending the unaccompanied children back across the border, arguing that they wanted to go home. Spanish officials denied accusations by rights groups that the returns breached international law.

Spanish migrants

A Spanish civil guard waits for migrants to arrive at the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, near the border of Morocco and Spain on May 19, 2021. Spain’s Supreme Court has ruled that Spanish authorities acted illegally when they sent unaccompanied child migrants back to Morocco in 2021. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue, File)

Spain is legally obliged to care for young migrants until their relatives can be located or until they turn 18, but officials said that a 2007 agreement between Spain and Morocco for assisted returns once children’s cases had been considered.

The Supreme Court judges rejected arguments that the 2007 agreement superseded Spanish law and said the mass return contravened the European Convention on Human Rights.

OVER 500 MIGRANTS ARRIVE AT SPANISH CANARY ISLANDS IN 24 HOURS

Tens of thousands of migrants from sub-Saharan countries try to reach Spain each year in large open boats launched from northwest Africa. Most go to the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, while others try to cross the Mediterranean Sea to mainland Spain or scale Ceuta’s fence.

Several thousand are known to die making the hazardous sea journeys.

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