Spain/Morocco: People ‘being used as pawns’ as political games turn violent

Spain/Morocco: People ‘being used as pawns’ as political games turn violent

  • Children and asylum seekers likely to be among those returned
  • Spokespeople available

People, including children have been subjected to violence by Spanish security forces and the army, including being thrown into the sea, after Morocco opened its borders, said Amnesty International today.

The organisation says that asylum-seekers and migrants are being used as pawns in a political game between Morocco and Spain, after more than 8,000 people, including about 2,000 unaccompanied children, entered Ceuta from Morocco irregularly before being subjected to collective expulsions.

“We cannot accept that people, including children, are being beaten by Spanish forces. While border officials did provide emergency assistance to people, abuses cannot be tolerated. Spanish authorities must open a thorough investigation and ensure accountability,” said Virginia Álvarez, Head of Internal Policy and researcher at Amnesty International Spain.

European leaders were quick to support Spain and say that Spanish borders are EU borders. By the same logic, Spanish abuses are also EU abuses. We call on EU leaders to not turn a blind eye to the abuses happening at EU borders.

Virginia Álvarez, Head of Internal Policy and researcher at Amnesty International Spain

Many of those who entered Spain were very young children. The authorities must ensure that the best interests of the child are protected in all cases and that they are able to request international protection.

Video footage appears to show Moroccan guards waving migrants and asylum seekers past their controls into Ceuta.

“Morocco is playing with people’s lives. They must not use people, among them its own citizens, as pawns in a political game,” said Virginia Álvarez.

Morocco has a long track record of abusing the rights of asylum seekers and migrants at this border. In the past Amnesty International has documented unlawful raids, arrests, and removal of migrants and asylum seekers in encampments and homes near the Spanish borders to southern Morocco without due process.

It appears from a Facebook post by Morocco’s Minister for Human Rights that this selective border enforcement was retaliation for the medical treatment that a Polisario leader received in Spain, suggesting that authorities may have utilised migrants and asylum seekers as pawns in this dispute.


Around 5,000 people have reportedly so far been collectively expelled to Morocco by Spanish authorities over the last few days. The Spanish military forces deployed at the border have carried out collective and forced returns, without any safeguards making it impossible to identify vulnerable people or ensure that they receive adequate information, legal assistance and request asylum.

“A large arrival of people is not an excuse for illegal collective expulsion. Amongst those 5,000 summarily returned there may be individuals eligible for asylum or in need of protection. Pushing people back is unlawful and denies them their right to a fair and individualized evaluation of their asylum claims,” said Virginia Álvarez.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:   
Amnesty International press office on
[email protected]+32 2 548 27 73 or +32 483 680 812  

Or Ana Gomez on [email protected],org / +34 650 34 77 65