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Commissioner for Human Rights
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Forced returns of migrants from Melilla to Morocco and address at the Congress session

On 28 March 2018, the Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, 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 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 underscored that all the information available pointed 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.

On 27 March 2018, in one of his last addresses before ending his mandate, entitled Sharing experiences among local and regional authorities is crucial to improve human rights protection, the Commissioner stressed that uncoordinated migration policy at national and international level led not only to an unnecessary human suffering on the side of migrants and asylum-seekers, but also put a strain on local and regional authorities’ daily work. He also stressed that many Congress members and large parts of their population have been in fact in the forefront of reception and integration efforts, often without much support by national authorities. The Commissioner added that sometimes, however, he has witnessed how local and regional authorities can also be part of the problem, for example by refusing to receive asylum-seekers and engaging in a discourse which often spread racism and intolerance.