Human rights

No one is illegal

The year 2015 saw the highest figures of displacement in Europe since the Second World War. One of the main triggers was the devastating war in Syria. However, other wars and environmental hardships played their part, as did the significant social and economic inequality which continue to increase across the globe, exacerbated by short-sighted political decision-making. All of the above has contributed to migratory movement towards Europe, in its various manifestations. Unfortunately, forecasts predict that, against a backdrop of global violence, growing inequality and rampant environmental degradation, this type of forced displacement of peoples may continue to occur, and even increase.

Faced with this situation, the European Union’s response has been complicit passivity in shipwrecks, border blockades, and the outsourcing of border control to third-party countries outside Europe. One example of this is the EU-Turkey agreement which entered into force on the 20th of March 2016, outsourcing border control to the Turkish state. The agreement allows for the expulsion of migrants to Turkey and forces new refugees to remain in Turkish territory, blocking their passage to Europe. Similar political arrangements have been reached with countries such as Libya in 2017, and Morocco in 2019.

Many humanitarian organizations have denounced these agreements as a violation of refugees’ right to asylum, and because they consider Turkey, Libya and Morocco as countries which neither respect nor protect human rights. In our country, various civic society platforms, NGOs and municipalities have come together to challenge these pacts and promote safeguarding policies.

Nevertheless, we are seeing growing attitudes towards the phenomenon of migration that are both negative and reductionist in nature. Xenophobic discourses and other forms of hatred are growing in influence, at the same time as border policies become more draconian and institutional obstacles more commonplace. All of this is manifested in the discrimination and human rights violations suffered by migrants.


Demonstration against racism in Barcelona (2018) / ANONYMOUS


A child protests at the Greek border station north of Idomeni/ PETROS GIANNAKOURIS / AP

What do international treaties say about it?

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations, 1945

  • Article 13 Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.

  • Article 14 Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

The 1951 Refugee Convention, United Nations, 1951

  • The term “refugee” shall apply to any person who…owing to well-founded fears of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country […].

Charter of Fundamental Rights, European Union, 2000

  • Article 18 The right to asylum shall be guaranteed with due respect for the rules of the Geneva Convention of 28 July 1951 […].
  • Article 19 Collective expulsions are prohibited. No one may be removed, expelled or extradited to a State where there is a serious risk that he or she would be subjected to the death penalty, torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Extension of the concept “refugee”

In general, when talking about migratory movement, there is a tendency to differentiate between “refugees” and “economic migrants”. This distinction responds to a literal interpretation of the definition of “refugee” established in the 1951 Geneva Convention, and which would exclude those fleeing their country for reasons such as extreme poverty, or the consequences of climate change.

Some campaigning organizations such as Stop Mare Mortum understand that everyone who is forced to flee their country should have the right to receive some international protection, as they are in a situation of extreme vulnerability which, in many cases, is the result of the commercial interests of Western countries.


Uncertainty at sea / ANONYMOUS

CIE detention centres, administrative prisons


Aluche CIE inmates group demanding his release / BERNAT ARMANGUE

Several organizations continue to call for the closure of Spain’s CIEs, or migrant detention centres, given that, in practice, they function as prisons, and are the focal point of serious violations of human rights. Since 2006, 8 deaths have been recorded, 3 of which have occurred in the CIE in Barcelona’s Zona Franca. In July 2015, thanks to the work of various campaign and protest groups, especially Tanquem els CIEs (Close the CIEs), the Parliament of Catalonia passed a resolution urging the Spanish government to close the CIEs nationwide. In 2016, the Plenary Session of Barcelona City Council passed a decision to take all possible action to close the Barcelona-Zona Franca CIE. However, this goal has yet to be achieved.

The Fundació Migra Studium, the only organization that has access to the CIE in the Zona Franca, reported that, in 2018, up to 42 minors may have been detained there, while the Interior Ministry only acknowledged the presence of 20. Of the 156 people in detention, 66% had no criminal record. 60% of all detainees were from Morocco and Algeria, countries with which the Spanish government has reached deportation agreements considered illegal under international law. Deportations continue to take place with public knowledge and complete impunity, despite being illegal. This notwithstanding, legislation is already being expanded in order to provide them with legal justification in the near future.

“I've come to feel that I am not a human being, that I've lost my humanity. Everyone has abandoned us”