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Spain urged not to return migrants to Senegal

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A Spanish refugee aid group has called on authorities to suspend plans to transfer 168 migrants to Senegal. The group says Spain could be breaking international law by returning the migrants without due process.

the Spanish commission for refugees (cear) says 168 migrants who were rescued by a patrol boat last Thursday (August 24) should not be returned to Senegal. The NGO claims the migrants are under Spanish jurisdiction and under the effective control of Spain’s national police agency, the civil guard.

according to cear, some of the migrants may qualify for international protection, and they should therefore be given information about the procedure and transferred to Spain, which is the competent authority to consider their claims.

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The organization stressed that everyone is entitled to an individualized assessment of their claim, and a failure to guarantee these rights could mean the migrants faced “collective expulsion” in violation of international law.

“The [European court of human rights] places special emphasis on guaranteeing that people are not returned to countries where their rights and lives may be in danger,” cear said in a statement on Tuesday. It referred to recent major political instability in Senegal, which has seen the arrests of thousands of people, including the opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, sparking violent protests.

“Returning these 168 people to a country like Senegal, which is going through a very delicate political and social situation, could entail a serious violation of rights,” said cear’s director-general, Estrella Galán.

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The group of 168 migrants are being transferred to Senegal, where most of them are from, after neighboring Mauritania refused to allow them into its port. The migrants had been rescued last Thursday as they were attempting to reach the Canary Islands from Senegal.

They were taken on board a Spanish Civil Guard ship, the Río Tajo, where they remained for five days anchored in Nouadhibou Bay. Conditions on board the ship deteriorated, with some migrants reportedly mounting a hunger strike and authorities on board firing shots into the air to prevent possible rioting.

Following negotiations between Mauritania and Spain on Monday, the Civil Guard union announced an end to the stand-off, saying that the migrants would be returned to Senegal. They were due to arrive on Wednesday.

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