Abandoned to their fate on the frontier…

Tragedies such as that which took place at the Tarajal beach bring us right back to the grim reality of immigration and how it is looked upon in Europe and in our country; at the same time that we call upon the European conscience, we must now add 15 new victims to the list of immigrants who have died in the waters of the Strait. This episode, an event which happens far too often with tragic and terrible results along the borders of the European Union, is, without a doubt, the responsibility of the Commission and the member nations, in which immigration is either being criminalized or ignored, as are the effects of non intervention in the migratory flows. We cannot look away when faced with an indisputable fact with profound humanitarian character. For this reason, it would seem more than reasonable to not further degrade the position of the migration policies and their follow-up on the European agenda, and attempt to not emphasize “the globalization of indifference”.

The International Commission of Jurists draws our attention to the competence of the regulations to protect and regulate migrations, even though both the international community as well as the European Union default on them or just simply partially respect them as far as it serves their own interests. A partial reading of the regulations should keep in mind that European law states that those foreigners who reach the EU have the right to apply for asylum. The Schengen Treaty sets forth the conditions in which a member nation may deny said application and, therefore, preference must be given to the obligation to rescue and protect any persons who find themselves in danger along the borders of the EU and not abandon them to their fate. And so says the European Pact on Migration and Asylum, in which the EU binds itself to developing an exhaustive and flexible migration policy, focused on solidarity and responsibility. The Stockholm Programme, an open and secure Europe serving and protecting citizens, finishes this year, and its follow-up should reflect all the experiences of these four years, and the demographic perspectives of the EU to strengthen its goals to build a Europe in pro of rights and justice, a Europe that protects and cares.

The avalanches of irregular immigration cannot be stopped by violence and harassment, but with comprehensive policies that set up effective coordination mechanisms between issuing countries, transit countries and destination countries; with steps and measures directed towards integration, policies aimed at developing cooperation and with the correct and properly financed instruments. That is how the Spanish and Moroccan governments understood it in 2006, when we fostered the celebration of the Rabat Euro-African Ministerial Conference on Migration and Development, which was followed towards the end of that year by the Tripoli EU-Africa Conference on Migration and Development. Both events laid down the foundations of a comprehensive and coordinated policy as regards migration and development that, in the case of Spain, was followed up by the Government on Fridays before cabinet meetings. Likewise, institutions such as Casa Árabe and Casa África, and strategic planning instruments such as the Africa Plan, were developed. The association agreements between the European Union and the countries issuing migrants contributed to greatly expedite and guarantee the legality of many of the return processes, which led to a close collaboration with Morocco which, as we all know, has within its territory more than one million irregular immigrants.


The migratory pressure on Ceuta and Melilla cannot be used by the Government to ignore European and International Law, and it must not be used as an alibi to amend the Immigration Law by opening loopholes that would allow for “express returns”. Besides immigration recovering its rightful spot on the European agenda, it is possible to take steps such as the creation of a Frontex office in Andalusia, at the same time that material and human resources are reinforced in the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla, for the EU only assigns 527 million euros to the protection of Spanish borders, and the largest consignment is destined to the maintenance of the SIVE (Sistema Integrado de Vigilancia Exterior – Comprehensive System of Exterior Surveillance).


I believe it would be advisable for the European Commission to take responsibility for the regulation and rules to be applied for search and rescue of immigrants in territorial waters, and to refocus its attention on immigration as a matter of security and the protection of rights of European citizens. However, this will not be enough; we have yet to see a high-level European leader visiting one of the issuing or transit countries. Illegal immigration cannot be controlled just with domestic and justice mechanisms, it needs a common European foreign policy from all the member nations. There is still time to step back from the attempts to criminalize immigration, to confuse it with delinquency, as well as to stop this process of abandoning to their fate on the frontier those who are most disadvantaged.