Wednesday

13th Dec 2017

Opinion

Spain turns its back on migrant children's rights

  • Child migrants are a particularly vulnerable group, especially if they are not given protection. (Photo: plan-international.org)

At this very moment, some children in Spain are being held in adult immigration detention centres, pending return to their home countries.

Other migrant children are living on the streets in Madrid and other Spanish cities, suffering from serious illnesses, or are prevented from applying for asylum. This is happening because they are not Spanish nationals and the authorities have not recognised them as children, but consider them to be adults.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

During the International Commission of Jurists' (ICJ's) capacity and coalition building activities with lawyers and civil society organisations to better defend migrant children's rights in various European countries, our Spanish partner, Fundacion Raices, raised attention to the dire situation of migrant children in Spain.

In seven cases concerning migrant children in vulnerable circumstances, Fundacion Raices and other Spanish lawyers requested the United Nations committee on the rights of the child to issue interim measures, i.e. orders to the Spanish authorities, with a view to avoiding irreversible harm to these children.

In states that, like Spain, are parties to the optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure, the committee on the rights of the child is empowered to examine individual communications by or on behalf of a child or group of children claiming that there has been a violation of their rights under the convention.

Irreversible damage

Pending its determination on the merits, the committee may request the state party to take interim measures, as may be necessary to avoid possible irreversible damage to the victim or victims of the alleged violations.

In one of the seven cases mentioned above, a 16-year-old boy, who was hurt when crossing the border into Spain, requires urgent surgery.

Since the boy is an unaccompanied child, the hospital treating him requires the consent of a responsible adult to authorise his surgery. However, until a guardian has been appointed, no consent to the child’s surgery can be given.

Disregarding the boy’s own passport, which attests to his childhood, following a highly criticised age-assessment procedure, the public prosecutor decided that he is an adult.

However, the boy is in a catch-22 situation since, as far as the hospital is concerned, there is no official document attesting to his age other than his own passport, according to which he is a child.

Therefore, the boy has not had the surgery he so desperately needs. In addition, if considered an adult, he would have to pay for the surgery himself.

The UN committee reacted swiftly to the lawyers’ demands and during the past 7 months requested the Spanish government in those seven cases to take interim measures.

Under international law, respect for interim measures is essential for the protection of human rights.

Existing international law and jurisprudence affirm that any state party’s non-compliance with a request for interim measures constitutes a breach of its legal obligations under international law.

Respecting international law

The binding nature of interim measures has been reaffirmed by the human rights committee in its general comment 33 on the individual complaints procedure.

However, the Spanish government has ignored these requests and failed to comply with any of the requested interim measures. The Spanish government is thus in violation of the international obligation it has voluntarily undertaken - more significantly, the lives and well-being of dozens of highly vulnerable children are at risk.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child obliges states to consider the best interests of the child as a primary consideration above any other. However, the Spanish authorities claim that the individuals in these cases are not children but adults.

Yet, in the event of any remaining uncertainty, international law affirms that states must accord the individual the benefit of the doubt and treat him or her as a child - until effectively proven otherwise.

Moreover, the Spanish supreme court has already expressed concern about the age-assessment procedure used by the Spanish authorities, in more than 10 judgments, as did the Spanish ombudsman and the United Nations high commissioner for human rights.

Last month, six civil society organisations in Spain (Amnesty International, Fundacion Raices, the General Council of Spanish Lawyers, the Jesuit Mission for Migrants, Noves Vies and Save the Children) called on the Spanish Government to immediately implement the committee’s request for interim measures in each case.

The ICJ is training lawyers in seven EU countries, including Spain, and supporting them in bringing their cases to international human rights mechanisms, such as the UN committee on the rights of the child, when no effective remedy is available domestically.

The Spanish government is failing these children and is failing to respect its international law obligations.

Respecting one's international obligations and ensuring that no harm is caused to children in violation of their rights should be high priorities for any states that are parties to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Spanish government should live up to its obligations, and immediately implement the committee on the rights of the child’s request for interim measures in these cases.

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) is composed of 60 eminent judges and lawyers from all regions of the world and promotes and protects human rights through the rule of law, by using its unique legal expertise to develop and strengthen national and international justice systems.

Child migrants endure 'abysmal conditions'

The Council of Europe's special representative on migration and refugees released a report that says minors in Europe are enduring "abysmal conditions".

Iceland: further from EU membership than ever

With fewer pro-EU MPs in the Iceland parliament than ever before, any plans to resume 'candidate' membership of the bloc are likely to remain on ice, as the country prioritises national sovereignty and a more left-wing path.

News in Brief

  1. EU bank delays gas pipeline decision
  2. Hungary's leftwing parties join Jobbik in anti-Orban protest
  3. Barnier: EU will not accept UK backtracking on Brexit deal
  4. Puigdemont to return to Catalonia if elected
  5. Commission approves EasyJet partial takeover of Air Berlin
  6. EU medical command centre due next year
  7. Auditors: EU 'green' farm payments fail ecology criteria
  8. Austria gas explosion creates Italian energy 'emergency'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  2. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  3. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  5. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  6. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  7. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  8. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  9. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties
  10. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  11. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  12. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage

Latest News

  1. Last chance for Poland to return property to its rightful owners
  2. Commission attacks Tusk on 'anti-European' migrant plan
  3. Volkswagen tells EU: we will fail on our recall promise
  4. EU will not start Brexit future talks before March
  5. Bitcoin risky but 'limited phenomenon', says EU
  6. Panama Papers - start of sensible revolution in EU tax affairs?
  7. Lebanon crisis overshadows EU aid for Syrian refugees
  8. New Polish PM brings same old government

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity
  3. Union for the MediterraneanMediterranean Countries Commit to Strengthening Women's Role in Region
  4. Bio-Based IndustriesRegistration for BBI JU Stakeholder Forum about to close. Last chance to register!
  5. European Heart NetworkThe Time Is Ripe for Simplified Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labelling
  6. Counter BalanceNew EU External Investment Plan Risks Sidelining Development Objectives
  7. EU2017EEEAS Calls for Eastern Partnership Countries to Enter EU Market Through Estonia
  8. Dialogue PlatformThe Turkey I No Longer Know
  9. World Vision7 Million Children at Risk in the DRC: Donor Meeting to Focus on Saving More Lives
  10. EPSU-Eurelectric-IndustriAllElectricity European Social Partners Stand up for Just Energy Transition
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaSignature of CEPA Marks a Fresh Start for EU-Armenia Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Ministers Pledge to Work More Closely at Nordic and EU Level