The Ceuta Prosecutor’s Office has filed the only open case for the hot returns of minors during the border crisis that broke out in Ceuta between May 17 and 19, according to Cadena Ser. Express rejections at the border – illegal in the case of minors and still in question in the case of adults – they were broadcast live during those days, but only one reached the Public Ministry. It was about the return of Aschraf, a Moroccan boy who told EL PAÍS that he was 16 years old and that in his attempt to reach Ceuta the military expelled him not only once, but twice. The sequence of one of those expulsions was published on video by Reuters. In its brief, the Prosecutor’s Office maintains, however, that it has not been possible to “expertly prove” the boy’s minority and that it has not been possible to identify the two soldiers who are taking him to the other side of the border. The prosecutor is also unable to certify the existence of orders regarding the return of immigrants during the crisis. Based on these three premises, the Prosecutor’s Office decides to archive the case for lack of sufficient evidence of the commission of a crime as well as for the lack of an author to whom to impute it.
The prosecutor’s decision shelves more serious complaints from those days when 10,000 migrants crossed the breakwaters that separate the autonomous city from Morocco. The public prosecutor’s office does not deny that they existed, but in this case – the only one that has been reported – encounters two obstacles: on the one hand, the boy whose age is now being questioned arrived undocumented and is now in Morocco untraceable; and, on the other hand, it has not been possible to prove who gave the alleged order or who executed it. The complainant, the NGO Coordinadora de Barrios, can still take her complaint to an investigating court.
In the case of the minority, the prosecutor maintains that the boy did not provide or display any official document with which to prove and corroborate the minority. “Due to the professional experience in this own Area Prosecutor’s Office, in which numerous age determinations of undocumented foreigners are made, it is an incontestable fact that immigrants frequently falsely allege their status as minors with the clear purpose of obtaining a better treatment and prevent the prosecution of the proceedings of return and delivery to their country, “adds the prosecutor. The public prosecutor’s office then, without proof in one sense or another, concludes that Aschraf is of legal age, “and this was appreciated by the Armed Forces personnel who made their summary rejection.” The “central fact” of the complaint, maintains the Prosecutor’s Office, rests on a “budget that has not been able to be accredited expertly.”
The brief from the Prosecutor’s Office details the investigations carried out and the requests for information from the authorities to identify if there was an order to summarily return everyone who entered. The authorities generally respond succinctly or refuse to respond.
The prosecutor asked the General Command of Ceuta (COMGECE) for the identity of the soldiers that appear in the images, but the answer was “negative.” On those days, the prosecutor points out, 2,700 members of the Armed Forces were mobilized, wearing at all times the individual protection of that group and masks. It also asked COMGECE to report on the “orders, instructions and service notes issued in relation to the return of foreigners and the mode of action in the border perimeter” and in response was that the military barely performed an “auxiliary function under the sponsorship of the National Police and Civil Guard ”. During May 17 and 18, 2,700 members of the Armed Forces mobilized in the area and that the soldiers were wearing at all times the individual protection of this group and the mandatory health masks due to the demands of the health crisis generated by the Covid-19 virus.
The Government Delegation, the Higher Headquarters of the National Police and the Civil Guard were also asked about the existence of orders regarding the mode of action in the border perimeter and the return of immigrants. The Government Delegation denied the existence of any type of order; The Police pointed out that the only instructions were to “maintain perimeter security and public order throughout the city”; while the Civil Guard shields itself in the confidentiality of the orders given those days to refuse to respond. “Without orders and without the author, the person in charge cannot be identified and there is no case,” explains a source familiar with the process.
Aschraf returned to Casablanca after his return. From the shanty town where he lived with his second adoptive mother, he told EL PAÍS that he never met his biological parents. The boy left his home last February and spent four months on the street before trying to reach Ceuta. “I wanted to earn money and send it to my family so they can live well,” he said.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.