Considering the impacts of the episodes of extreme border violence during May 2021 and placing this in a historical context of illegal migrant pushbacks and human rights violations from the Spanish enclaves to Morocco, we have published a report on the situation in Ceuta and Melilla, looking at the continued and increasing state repression of people on the move. This report was researched and written by the Disinfaux Collective, No Name Kitchen and Solidary Wheels, and published by the Border Violence Monitoring Network.
The report examines the context of the enclaves as places of transit, analysing developments around the fence, sea crossings and local border mobility. Combining first-hand accounts of people subjected to violent returns, as well as an overview of the actors and surveillance technologies involved, it outlines the constitution of the enclaves as a tool of deterrence and abuse.
The report focuses primarily on the events of May 2021 and beyond, when thousands of sub-Saharans and people from neighbouring Moroccan cities crossed into Ceuta and Melilla by land and sea. The way in which the Spanish and Moroccan authorities dealt with this large-scale transit reveals existing patterns of collective expulsions and police brutality.
Despite the fact that these regions are internationally accepted as Spanish, and therefore part of the European Union, people on the move there are treated differently, creating a legal pretext for forced expulsions, and the subsequent violence inherent to these processes. A recent example is what happened on 13 August when Spain and Morocco initiated a mass pushback operation, ultimately resulting in 54 minors being returned from Ceuta (and 2 minors from Melilla), in violation of Spanish child protection law and international law too.
Additionally, the pandemic and the closure of the border for a year and a half have affected the situation in Ceuta and Melilla, in terms of the mobility of people entering from Morocco, and the use of racist violence to control it and repress it, showing an escalation and expansion of violence carried out using racial profiling.
Regarding pushbacks (also known as hot returns), after the expulsion of 4 people (including 2 minors) on 26 July, AMDH reported the return of another 2 on 28 July. During the month of August, these unlawful express returns were repeated.
More recently, in the period of August and September, entries by sea were intensified: 125 people arrived at Vélez de la Gomera on 20 September, 41 people at Isla de Tierra on 21 August and 2 people at the Chafarinas Islands on 18 September. All these people have been returned to Morocco, although many had requested international protection. On Isla de Tierra, the anti-riot unit and the Guardia Civil used violence against the arriving migrants, with tear gas and batons.
At least 10 migrants have died in the sea off Melilla this year, either having fallen in while crossing the border or trying to board the ferry to mainland Spain. The arrival of bodies at the port of Melilla is not uncommon. The last two deaths were on 10 August and 21 September.
In recent months the tension at Melilla's borders has persisted, due to the increase in mass crossings. The available record, where many entries are not counted, indicates that during the period from 17 August to 30 September there were at least 1,294 attempts to enter the city of Melilla from Morocco, mostly by attempting to jump but also by swimming all the way (which can take from 6 to 8 hours). The vast majority of these attempts were prevented by the Moroccan and Spanish police, who collaborate in the control of the Spanish borders (externalisation of European and Spanish borders) through excessive police violence, among other tactics that violate the human rights of migrants.