Tuesday

21st Aug 2018

EU wants investigation into Spanish border guard shootings

The European Commission wants answers after Spanish border guards fired rubber bullets at migrants swimming to safety off the coast of the Ceuta, a Spanish-enclave in north Africa.

At least 12 people are said to have drowned in the incident, which occurred earlier this month, but which was confirmed on Thursday (13 February) by Spanish minister interior Jorge Fernandez Diaz.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Ceuta is one of two Spanish enclaves on the north African coast (Photo: pedrobea)

“The commission will be requesting explanations from the Spanish authorities on these events as they continue to unfold,” EU home affairs spokesperson Michele Cercone said in an email.

He pointed out that commission, as a guardian of the EU treaties, reserves the right to take appropriate steps where there is evidence that a member state has violated EU law.

The 12 who drowned are part of a larger group of some 200 migrants who attempted to enter Ceuta on 6 February from Moroccan territory.

Some tried to cross on land. Others attempted to swim around a man-made breakwater that separates Moroccan and Spanish waters, where the drowning took place.

Diaz said the rubber bullets were fired at a distance of 25 metres to deter them from entering Spanish territory.

He said the guards did not fire directly at the people in the water. He noted that the shootings were appropriate due to what he described as the aggressive behaviour of the migrants, Reuters reports.

Twenty three people are said to have made it to Ceuta’s El Tarajal beach, but they were immediately turned over to Moroccan authorities in an apparent contravention of EU laws against push-backs.

While admitting they made it to the beach, Diaz said the 23 did not enter Spanish territory because they never made it past the line of waiting border guards.

Under European asylum and migration law, anyone who steps foot on member states’ territory is eligible to have their asylum request properly examined before they are turned away.

Both Spanish and Moroccan border patrols monitor the area, as well as Spain’s second enclave, Melilla, further west. The two border patrol services have been working jointly since 2004.

The Spanish news agency RTVE reports the Guardia Civil intercepted 4,370 migrants trying to enter Spain this year alone.

Human Rights Watch, in a report out earlier this month on the treatment of sub-Saharan African migrants in Morocco, found that many attempt to make their way to Nador, a coastal city located 15 kilometers from Melilla. They then try to enter Melilla with the hope of getting to mainland Spain.

Over a dozen testimonies from migrants who managed to enter the enclave said the Spanish Guardia Civil used force against them.

Another eight said the Guardia Civil at the border kicked them and beat them with police batons when they crossed, the report adds.

The watchdog says EU and member state policy is instrumental in passing the buck on migration management to neighbouring countries.

“Like other countries just outside the EU’s external borders, such as Libya, Ukraine, and Turkey, Morocco has become part of the buffer zone for the EU,” Human Rights Watch noted.

The EU signed a so-called mobility partnership agreement with Morocco last summer, which focuses on legal migration, migration and development, and the fight against irregular migration.

Spain, for its part, signed a readmission agreement with Morocco in 1992, obliging Moroccans to accept returned migrants crossing into EU territory via Spain.

EU Commission skirts Italy sanctions on Roma evictions

The European Commission, as guardian of the treaties, declines to sanction Italy's treatment of the Roma following a forced eviction on Thursday of some 300 from a camp in the outskirts of the Italian capital.

Women and children's role in Islamic State underestimated

Western Europe is estimated to have 5,904 nationals affiliated with the Islamic State inside Iraq and Syria. Of those, around 1,765 have returned of which 47 percent are minors and eight percent are women, says a new report.

News in Brief

  1. EU Commission: efforts 'ongoing' over Italian migrant ship
  2. Italy allows boat with migrants to dock
  3. France's Total pulls out of Iran due to US sanctions
  4. Trump accuses EU and China of currency manipulation
  5. Swedish conservatives regret unsuccessful integration policies
  6. Record high measles cases hit Europe
  7. Swedish politician declares war on media
  8. Italy threatens to return migrants to Libya

Opinion

The systemic risk that Europe has to face

One of the biggest systemic risks across Europe, illustrated by Hungary and Poland, is the dominance of the executive power over the judiciary and informal channels of political dependency.

Schengen at stake in Austria-Germany talks

German interior minister Horst Seehofer is in Vienna on Thursday - as his plan to reject some asylum seekers was met by an Austrian threat to close its borders too.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  2. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  3. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  4. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  5. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  6. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  8. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  12. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma

Latest News

  1. UK sanctions appeal risks highlighting EU divisions
  2. Wind delays launch of European wind-mapping satellite
  3. Greece 'normal' again after end of crisis, EU says
  4. Putin strikes blow against Russia's isolation by Europe
  5. EU-China cooperation on CO2 storage lost in limbo
  6. Greece exits bailouts, but difficult path ahead
  7. EU gets record response on 'summertime' consultation
  8. 'Nativism' and the upcoming Swedish and Bavarian elections

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us