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10 July 2022 – Spain

Riot police officers cordon off the area after migrants arrive on Spanish soil (Javier Bernardo, AP Photo,
Riot police officers cordon off the area after migrants arrive on Spanish soil (Javier Bernardo, AP Photo, "Spanish PM blames traffickers, migrants for deaths at border," AP News, 28 June 2022,

The deaths of 37 migrants and asylum seekers in late June along the border fence separating the Spanish enclave of Melilla from Morocco have spurred numerous protests across cities in both countries. Thousands of protestors gathered in Barcelona, Malaga, Vigo, San Sebastian, and Melilla to denounce migration policies as well as the militarisation of Spain’s border. In Rabat, a member of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights, Al-Tayeb Madmadh, said: “The least we can do is voice our outrage and demand that the Moroccan state stop acting as Europe’s border police, because through this nefarious activity it is accountable for what occurred.” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez blamed international trafficking rings for the tragedy and said that “many of these migrants attacked Spain’s borders with axes and hooks.” He subsequently promised that the government would offer “total collaboration” with the Spanish and Moroccan investigations.

On 27 June 2022, a boat en route to the Canary Islands that was carrying at least 140 migrants caught fire off the coast of Senegal, leading to the deaths of 14 people. On the same day, Spain intercepted 106 people off the Canary Islands and a further 110 people close to Fuerteventura. It is estimated that around 8,741 migrants arrived to the Canary Islands between January and June 2022, representing a 25% increase in arrivals compared with the same period in 2021.

With the onset of the pandemic, Spain began emptying its immigration detention centres and by May 2020, authorities had temporarily closed all of them (see 9 June and 15 May 2020 Spain updates on this platform). Despite COVID-19 concerns, centres began re-opening towards mid-2021 to the beginning of 2022 and deportations back to Morocco were resumed in March 2022 (see 31 March 2022 Spain update on this platform).

According to data published by the Spanish Interior Ministry, 65,404 people applied for international protection in Spain in 2021. The top five countries of origin were Venezuela (15,995), Colombia (11,567), Morocco (6,536), Mali (4,647), and Senegal (3,198). 49,537 applications were rejected while 5,354 people received refugee status and 12,938 were granted protection for humanitarian reasons.

According to ECRE, while Spain has included undocumented migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees in its COVID-19 vaccination campaign, various obstacles to registration were documented. Spanish authorities were found to have often delegated the provision of information regarding vaccination to NGOs.