Today the Commissioner published updated written observations that he submitted to the European Court of Human Rights in two cases concerning returns of migrants from the Spanish city of Melilla to Morocco. The cases were referred to the Grand Chamber last January.
The present new observations reiterate the conclusions contained in the Commissioner’s initial submission of November 2015, but also take account of the Commissioner’s subsequent country monitoring work on the subject matter.
The Commissioner underscores that all the information available points to the existence of an established practice whereby Spain’s border guards summarily return to Morocco migrants who attempt to enter Melilla by climbing the fence which surrounds the city. “Such returns take place outside of any formal procedure and without identification of the persons concerned or assessment of their individual situation”, he writes. “This practice, to which the legal amendments adopted in Spain in March 2015 aim at providing legal underpinning, prevents the persons concerned from effectively exercising their right to seek international protection.”
Moreover, the Commissioner stresses that migrants who have been summarily removed from Melilla have no access to an effective remedy which would enable them to challenge their removal or to seek redress for any ill-treatment they may have been subjected to during such operations.
Third party interventions represent an additional tool at the Commissioner’s disposal to help promote and protect human rights. They are foreseen by the European Convention on Human Rights and are based on the Commissioner’s country and thematic activities.