On 3 January, the Spanish NGO Caminando Fronteras reported the summary removal by Spanish authorities of 42 people disembarked in the morning at Chafarinas, a Spanish group of small islands situated 3.5 km from the Moroccan Coast.
As testified by a recorded message sent by a person involved in the push-back, people were returned to Morocco by the Spanish Civil Guard while they believed they were approaching the Spanish enclave of Melilla. Only when they heard Arabic voices, they realized they were back at the starting point.
Over 60 NGOs signed a statement denouncing Spain’s violation of the non-refoulement principle, which prohibits States from returning people to a state where they may face severe human rights violations amounting to inhuman and degrading treatment. States are thus obliged to examine each case.
The activist Helena Maleno, member of Caminando Fronteras, underlined: “It wasn’t just a push-back at the entrance, these people were waiting for hours in Spanish territory without any assistance”.
In contradiction with the pictures and the geolocation collected by the NGO, the Government denied any involvement, reporting that people were rescued at sea by the Moroccan Coast Guard who transferred them, as prescribed by the law, to the nearest safe port.
In the last six months, arrivals at the Spanish islands off the Moroccan coast have increased as Spanish and Moroccan police forces stepped up border control in the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. Since August, more than 600 people entered Spain through this route, 120 in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.