European Court of Human Rights
European Court of Human Rights

Spain: Court backs migrants over ‘collective expulsion’ human rights complaint

Judges have ruled that the return to Morocco of sub-Saharan migrants, attempting to enter Spanish territory in Melilla breached human rights law.

The Strasbourg justices say the decision amounted to a collective expulsion of foreign nationals and was against rights protected under the European convention.

In its 3 October Chamber judgment in the case of N.D. and N.T. v. Spain (applications nos. 8675/15 and 8697/15) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

a violation of Article 4 of Protocol No. 4 (prohibition of collective expulsions of aliens) to the European Convention on Human Rights,


a violation of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) taken together with Article 4 of Protocol No. 4.

As Just satisfaction (Article 41), the court held that Spain was to pay each of the applicants 5,000 euros (EUR) in respect of nonpecuniary damage.

The case concerned the immediate return to Morocco of sub-Saharan migrants who had attempted on 13 August 2014 to enter Spanish territory illegally by scaling the barriers which surround the Melilla enclave on the North-African coast.

The court noted that N.D. and N.T. had been expelled and sent back to Morocco against their wishes and that the removal measures were taken in the absence of any prior administrative or judicial decision.

At no point were N.D. and N.T. subjected to any identification procedure by the Spanish authorities.

The court concluded that, in those circumstances, the measures were indeed collective in nature.

The applicants’ version of the attempt to scale the barriers towards Melilla was corroborated by numerous statements, gathered by various witnesses and journalists, as well as by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees or by the Human Rights Commissioner.

Lastly, the court noted the existence of a clear link between the collective expulsion to which N.D. and N.T. were subjected at the Melilla border and the fact that they were effectively prevented from having access to a remedy that would have enabled them to submit their complaint to a competent authority and to obtain a thorough and rigorous assessment of their requests before their removal.


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