Asylum seekers forced to sleep rough in Spain hours after being deported from Britain

Syrian asylum seekers were left on the streets of Madrid after being deported by the UK.

The UK and EU governments have been accused of ‘playing games with the lives of refugees.’ Asylum seekers were forced to spend their nights on streets in Madrid hours after being forcibly removed from Britain when their applications to remain there were refused or disallowed, say campaigners.

Having recently crossed the English Channel to Britain, the 11 men were forcibly removed from the UK on a charter flight on Thursday under an EU law called Dublin III. This law in some circumstances enables countries to return people to other EU nations where they have already sought asylum, to register a new claim or continue their previous one.

However, according to welfare group SOAS Detainee Support (SDS) when they touched down in Spain, the Spanish authorities didn’t accept responsibility for them or even provide them with any support. It is now understood that a small number of the men were eventually offered a place to stay on Thursday night by members of the public who had heard about their situation. The others, however, crept their way into an abandoned building with no beds, some just slept on the street.

“When the Home Office say they are deporting people to functioning asylum systems in Europe, they’re really saying they’ll abandon people to destitution on the streets of Madrid- said Tom Kemp, from SOAS Detainee Support. “UK and EU governments are playing games with the lives of refugees. And mutual aid groups are struggling to pick up the pieces.”

A spokesperson for the home office said: “Under the Dublin III process, the time and place of the arrival of [Thursday’s] flight had been carefully worked through between the UK and Spain by mutual agreement – formal requests were made of Spain in advance and they accepted responsibility for the claimants in accordance with the regulations. Any suggestion that the Home Office has not complied with our obligations is incorrect. A travel or identity document is not required for that country to process an individual as the details of those being returned are shared and agreed in advance.”

One twitter user disagreed with the home secretary and posted:

David Farbey –@dfarb. Replying to @ukhomeoffice
  1. Britain has international treaty obligations towards asylum seekers and refugees which your policies wilfully ignore. 2. It is totally unacceptable for a gov’t department to suggest that the law is frustrating your policies. That is the road to fascism.

Home secretary Priti Patel hailed the deportations on Twitter and said she will “not let up” until the Channel route is “unviable”, with the Home Office insisting that Thursday’s flight had been “carefully worked” between the UK and Spanish authorities. The Syrian nationals were sent back to Spain because they had already claimed asylum there, the department said.

Spain’s interior ministry, Fernando Grande-Marlaska Gomez, stated that anyone could request international protection in the country, both at the border and at any time during their time there. Last year more than 50 Syrian refugees were forced to live in a public park in Madrid after being forced out of asylum shelters and sent back to Spain having previously tried to move to a different country within the EU. 

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Written by

Tony Winterburn

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