SPAIN’S government has made its case before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg over its treatment of migrants attempting to cross into its African enclaves.
A representative of the government told the court there had been no expulsions but that border guards in Ceuta and Melilla had faced violence from migrants attempting to enter.
The ECHR is currently hearing an appeal made by the Spanish government after it ruled that Spain had unlawfully made two forced or ‘hot’ returns of migrants in 2017.
Rafael Leon, speaking on behalf of the government in Strasbourg, said there was a difference between those migrants fleeing wars such as that in Syria and ‘economic immigration’.
Authorities did not have to afford the same protection to economic migrants as they did for refugees of wars and conflicts, Leon told the court.
Leon claimed non-admission was not the same thing as expulsion. The government had to manage the flows of migrants in part because terrorists and organised criminals were taking advantage of them to gain access to Spain, he said.
“If you are at home with your family and a person in dangers knocks on the door and explains why, I would let them in.
“But if you suddenly see that 600 strong men are trying to break the windows, then you close the windows. Are you preventing them from entering your house or are you expelling them? Who is being violent and breaking the law,” he said.
The appeal follows a case lodged by two plaintiffs, one Malian and one Ivorian, who arrived in Morocco in Match 2013 and stayed in a makeshift camp for nine months.
They attempted to cross over the Melilla border into Spanish territory along with a group of other sub-Saharan migrants on August 13 2014.
The plaintiffs claimed Moroccan border police threw stones at them while they scaled several fences between the country and Melilla.
Guardia Civil officers arrested them when they arrived in Spain and sent them back over the border. Court documents state they did not have the opportunity to explain themselves and that they were denied access to lawyers, interpreters and medical assistance.
The Malian and Ivorian plaintiffs entered Melilla again successfully on December 9 and October 23 respectively.
They were then deported and filed a case against Spain at the ECHR over their treatment. The court ruled in their favour in 2017 but the Spanish government appealed. The hearings continue.