The Public Prosecutor's Office investigates immediate forced returns of minors to Ceuta

The public prosecutor asks to identify the soldiers who illegally expelled a 16-year-old boy who had arrived with a float made of bottles

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Minors arrested on the beach of Tarajal, near the fence between the Spanish-Moroccan border in Ceuta

BarcelonaAlthough the Spanish government had insisted that there were no minors among the migrants returned immediately at the border of Morocco with Ceuta, the Public Prosecutor's Office has opened an investigation following the complaint of the Fundació Arrels for the case of a 16-year-old boy who swam -helped by a float made of bottles- to the beach of the autonomous city and shortly after the police accompanied him to the border to expel him. Spanish law and international law prohibit the expulsion of minors because they are part of a group with special protection that cannot be left without guardianship and, for this reason, when they arrive in a country it is the public administrations that take charge of them while their family is not located. Although the proceedings are being opened as a result of a specific case, the Public Prosecutor's Office has clarified that if other expulsions can be documented, they will also be investigated.

The story of Aschraf, 16, is the story of more than 1,500 minors who in just 48 hours - the prosecution speaks of 800 - managed to enter Ceuta, most of them swimming. A journalist captured a video of this boy trying to stay afloat with a rudimentary float made of pieces of plastic bottles around his body, but he avoided touching land because he thought the soldiers would hit him.

In the images, which have been contributed to the case, he appears crying and asking for understanding from the Spanish military who were guarding the beach to prevent irregular entries. "Try to understand us, please", he implores. Once on the sand, Aschraf tries to run away, but two soldiers catch him and, after consoling him, accompany him to the border. It was the third time that the young man had tried to enter Spanish territory in one day, according to El País, which tracked him down in Morocco.

The director of the Fundació Arrels, Lourdes Reyzábal, has welcomed the decision of the Public Prosecutor's Office to investigate the case of the young man, but warned that the haste of the Spanish authorities to expel the more than 8,000 people who arrived those two days made it impossible to take care of minors and asylum seekers, who also have specific legislation that gives them protection. Although a 1992 agreement between Morocco and Spain allows these immediate returns, the law and rulings by Spanish and European courts stress that the returns must be carried out with full judicial guarantees and after an individual interview with each of the people concerned to find out the details of their personal situation. In the case of minors, moreover, they do not fall under these assumptions and the Spanish government has the obligation to attend to those who are found without adult referents.

According to the Sur Newspaper, the Public Prosecutor's Office has asked the General Command of Ceuta to identify the soldiers who were on the beach, as well as their superiors, to determine who gave the order to expel minors, and has also requested what instructions were given for the returns.

In 2015, the UN already reproached the Spanish government for the expulsion of minors. On that occasion, it was D.D., who was 14 years old and managed to jump the fence of Melilla but, once the Guardia Civil arrested him, handcuffed him and expelled him automatically handing him over to the security forces, without having complied with the relevant procedures set out in international law.