The Ceuta Prosecutor for Minors has launched an investigation into the hot returns of minors to Morocco that occurred by the Spanish authorities during the border crisis last week. As confirmed by the prosecutor in the area, José Luis Puerta, the procedure focuses, for the moment, on the case of Aschraf, whose story published by EL PAÍS reveals that the 16-year-old teenager was returned to Morocco on at least two occasions last week, when between 8,000 and 9,000 people accessed the autonomous city. A video captured by journalist Jon Nazca for Reuters showed Aschraf, tied to a float of bottles, trying to reach the shore of El Tarajal beach in terror and shouting at the deployed military: “You have to understand us; I do not want to get back!”. The video then shows the military escorting Aschraf and another minor to the Moroccan fence, where they are handed over to the border forces.
The prosecutor’s investigation is based on a complaint made on May 21 by the Coordinadora de Barrios organization. In the brief, the entity alleges the violation of the rights of the child when a “rejection at the border” was carried out without having paid the necessary attention to the possible situation of vulnerability of the person returned, in this case, a minor.
In video, three minutes in Spain: The passage of immigrants through Ceuta until their return to Morocco.
In November, the Constitutional Court endorsed hot returns as rejections at the border, but it also set limits to this form of expulsion of migrants that cross the border perimeters of Ceuta and Melilla. They can only be carried out during the entry process, they cannot be applied to a minor and the possible existence of mistreatment or torture must be assessed, in compliance with international obligations.
“There is no more clear allegation of abuse than a child crying, terrified, asking for understanding,” includes the complaint, to which EL PAÍS has had access. Given this, he continues, “the principle of non-refoulement should operate automatically.”
As part of the investigation, the prosecutor has requested the video of Reuters unedited in which the scene of the reception and subsequent return of Ashraf is detailed and in which the boy tries to escape from the military who receive him on the shore. “They are going to hit me!” He cries. Information has also been requested from the General Command of Ceuta about who are the soldiers that appear in the images and who and what instructions were given that Wednesday, May 19, the third day of a chaotic week in which at least 1,500 minors entered Ceuta swimming through the breakwater of Benzú and the border crossing of El Tarajal. In addition, the recordings corresponding to the day and time in which Aschraf and another young man were returned will be requested to verify whether more similar actions were carried out, which were witnessed by dozens of journalists who worked on the beach.
On video, the sequence distributed by Reuters of the expulsion of Aschraf.
As Aschraf has told EL PAÍS, the first return occurred on Tuesday morning, when he was directly rejected at the fence. That same night, he managed to swim in. They returned it the next day, and it wasn’t even an express return. With a towel and some cookies, they took him out of the ship in which he had spent the night and he crossed again to Morocco from Ceuta. Determined, that same Wednesday he loaded some bottles as a float and went back to throwing himself into the water.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.