Spain: Collective expulsion condemned by Strasbourg Court

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) delivered today its judgment in the case of N.D. and N.T. v. Spain, concerning the expulsion of a group of 75-80 migrants from the Melilla enclave on 13 August 2014. The appellants were two men from Mali and the Ivory Coast respectively.

The Spanish Government contended that the appellants had not entered the Spanish territory and that its jurisdiction had thereby not been engaged. The Court, however, found it immaterial to ascertain whether the appellants had been expelled after entering the Spanish territory or refouled before having the opportunity to do so, building on its reasoning in Hirsi Jamaa v. Italy where the prohibition of collective expulsions was found to apply in the high seas.

Insofar as the individuals, who were under the exclusive and continuous control of the Spanish authorities, were forcibly readmitted to Morocco, they were clearly “expelled” for the purposes of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Since the appellants, who were part of a group of 75-80 people entering Melilla, never underwent any procedure of identification before being removed, their expulsion was collective.

The Court unanimously agreed that there had been a collective expulsion, contrary to Article 4 Protocol 4 ECHR. In conjunction thereto, it also found a violation of the right to an effective remedy under Article 13 ECHR.

Access to the Spanish territory through the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla remains critical to date.


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