“Protecting minors is a duty of every government,” Pedro Sánchez, 2020

The title of this column is a quote from a tweet of the Spanish Prime Minister on June 9, 2020 talking about the child protection law. A quote that contrasts with the sad and violent reality that today live more than 750 Moroccan children and adolescents whom the Minister of the Interior has been returning in conditions of indignity and illegality.

That these returns have been taking place in conditions of indignity is something that doesn’t seem to have mattered for a while now to Minister Marlaska, who has proven experience in taking the human rights of migrants with him. He is the same minister who has taken great pains to make the international protection system more restrictive, who is an expert in the systematic denials of asylum and who sustains a system of imprisonment of foreigners for administrative, not criminal, offences and in quite deplorable conditions – the CIES.

So, while we cannot appeal to morality and respect for human dignity, as it seems to matter little as far as migration is concerned to the Spanish government; what we do have to appeal to is international commitments and national and international state responsibility for human rights. What is being done with the minors in Ceuta is an absolute arbitrariness that goes against all legal postulates and international human rights law, especially considering that these are people who enjoy enhanced protection in legal matters, but Minister Marlaska and the President of the Government already know this and these days the Attorney General’s Office is reminding them of it, the Ombudsman, various NGOs, the Spanish legal profession, even his work colleague, the Minister of Social Rights – in whose competences he has the Directorate for the Rights of Children and Adolescents – to whom he did not consult anything about what he was thinking of doing and who did not hesitate to warn him about the faults he was committing.

The absurdity and arbitrariness is so obvious that the case has quickly been brought to the attention of international human rights mechanisms. and had been criticized by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants and by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.

What Marlaska is doing with the Moroccan children is not an “assisted return” as he has stated to the media, it is impossible for a voluntary procedure to materialize with those who have not had the opportunity to express their will and whose due process has been violated. The Constitutional Court has twice (judgements 183 and 184, both of 22 December 2008) recognized the right of minors to be heard in any process involving their repatriation and to oppose it judicially. Insisting that this procedure must be governed by the assessment of the best interests of the child. So, national and international legal argumentation is not lacking in this case.

However, the fact that this institutional violence falls on migrant children is not something that should surprise us. Unfortunately, in Spain thousands of children and adolescents (accompanied and unaccompanied) suffer bureaucratic barriers that prevent them from accessing their most basic rights every day. Many are not even guaranteed the right to be officially identified, they have no documentation or it has expired and therefore have no access to other rights such as health, education, etc.. The same Ministry that today throws Moroccan children to their fate is the one that denies the right of asylum to children who flee because of the risks they run in their country (torture, labor exploitation, rape, murder, femicide, etc.) and that does so deliberately without giving an iota of credibility to their stories and the danger they run.

Unfortunately in Spain thousands of children and adolescents (accompanied and unaccompanied) suffer bureaucratic barriers that prevent them from accessing their most basic rights on a daily basis.

These same denials of asylum cause that today a huge number of children suffer health exclusions in Spain and I say this also with full knowledge of cause living from my professional practice with migrant population, the daily struggle for them to be attended in Health Centers, because regardless of whether they are babies or have pathologies of risk, access to health is denied to them. That “duty of every government” that the president stated a year ago talking about the law on children, apparently does not apply to migrant children. This is not only institutional violence, it is also institutional racism, it is colonialism. It’s so assumed that because they are “them” it’s okay to send them back, it’s okay to deny them entry to the country, it’s okay that they don’t have access to the country, it’s okay that they don’t have any rights.It’s good so that they don’t want to stay and so that others don’t come, and if it’s not good, at least we don’t rush to solve anything because it’s not so serious.

That “duty of every government” that the president expressed a year ago talking about the law on children, apparently does not compel him in the face of migrant children. In front of those children who are not white and have no money.

It is not possible for a government that presents itself as the most progressive in the history of Spain to proceed as its opposition would do. The difference between what the government does with migrant children and what the right wing says it would do with them, is that discursively and materially, the right wing would be expected to do so.

How much more do we have to wait for the effective materialization of human rights and the real consideration of the best interest of the minor?

Finally, a small reminder:

“you can only build a prosperous country on the basis of a safe and happy childhood” Pedro Sánchez (2018).

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