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Spain should end detention of hundreds of migrants, meet their legal demands

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Geneva - The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights monitor has expressed its grave concern over the detention of hundreds of immigrants of different nationalities – including women and children – by the Spanish authorities after arriving in Melilla city by land from Morocco. This may expose them to lose their rights as asylum seekers and thus face different abuses.

Euro-Med Monitor explained that migrants and asylum seekers irregularly arrive in Melilla, to escape the difficult political, economic and social conditions in their countries, noting that they lack "the minimum necessities of life."

Distress calls have been issued by detainees to let them leave detention centers, where they face inhumane conditions and stay in plastic tents under extremely poor weather conditions. They too lack the minimum basics of life due to severe overcrowding.

According to testimonies of some asylum-seekers detained inside one of the centers, the living conditions are almost non-existent, as plastic tents in which they live had catastrophic implications on them in the winter with the absence of heating, which harmed children, especially newborns.

Others complained about the lack of privacy as the center is supposed to accommodate a maximum of 500 people, while the actual number of migrants and asylum seekers inside the center exceeds 2,000 people.

The protesters stated that they received no responses so far, noting that they are seeking to work peacefully and demand freedom and social justice. They asked to be empowered to move and live, stressing that they do not want to return to their countries now because of the difficult political, economic and social conditions.

Since late January 2019, more than 200 Tunisian immigrants have begun an open hunger strike to protest against difficult living conditions. They urged the Spanish authorities to check their asylum cases as soon as possible and to allow them to continue their journey to Europe through Spain, but none of these requests were achieved so far.

According to the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights, these punitive measures specifically target Tunisian migrants, who made only 3.8% of the total arrivals in Spain in 2019.

Euro-Med Monitor said that the number of migrants and asylum seekers who arrived in Spain by land and sea during the past year reached around 32,500 migrants, half of them are from North-West Africa, while the rest are distributed among Guinea, Mali, Côte d'Ivoire, Syria and Palestine.

Euro-Med Monitor stressed that the miserable humanitarian conditions of these migrants should be given a higher priority and that the Spanish authorities should adhere to the principle of “non-refoulment of migrants” as a customary principle in international law, according to which refugees may not be expelled if their life and freedom is at danger.

Euro-Med Monitor called on the Spanish authorities to stop detaining migrants and asylum seekers and to assure providing them with the basic humanitarian help while waiting for their applications to be considered or to allow them to reach Europe.