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Immigration

Spain defends legalizing on-the-spot deportations before United Nations

State secretary tells Human Rights Council that government will respect international law

Security forces return a migrant who jumped the fence at Melilla.
Security forces return a migrant who jumped the fence at Melilla.

Spain used an appearance before the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva on Wednesday to defend its plan to give legal coverage to the on-the-spot handovers of sub-Saharan migrants who scale the border fences in its North African exclaves in Melilla and Ceuta.

Secretary of state for foreign affairs Ignacio Ybáñez said the changes to legally protect the much-criticized practice – which are included in the new Citizen Safety Law –  would “be consistent with Spain’s obligations in international protection and the principle of no returns.”

Ybáñez said the measures were only being drafted to solve the unique situation in Melilla and Ceuta

Speaking as he represented Spain at its HRC Universal Periodic Review, which all member countries are required to undergo every four years, he added the measures were only being drafted to solve the unique situation in Melilla and Ceuta, which have been subjected to “extraordinary migratory pressure.”

During the review, Spain received harsh criticism of the way it has been dealing with its growing migrant problem from a number of nations, which claimed that such immediate deportations violated universal asylum doctrines.

At present, sending immigrants straight back through the fence once they have made it into Spain is expressly prohibited under Spanish law, which states that, once in the country, would-be migrants have the right to legal assistance and to be identified in order to check whether, for example, they are minors or have suffered political persecution in their country of origin.

The secretary of state said the proposal to legalize the practice was now under congressional study with rights groups chipping in.