Urgent Coordinated Response Needed to the Alarming Conditions of Migrants and Refugees Detained in Melilla

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) call on Spanish authorities to adopt urgent and coordinated measures to respond to the concerning situation of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants hosted in the autonomous city of Melilla, both in the CETI (Center for Temporary Stay of Immigrants) and the city’s bullring.

At this very moment the CETI hosts close to 1,400 people, twice its intended capacity, including some 150 children, as well as women and highly vulnerable people with pre-existing medical conditions and profiles that put them at risk of COVID-19. Many of them have fled war or persecution and some have applied for asylum in Spain.

Considering the persistent overcrowding of the CETI, new arrivals are hosted in improvised spaces in extremely inadequate conditions, such as the city’s bullring. Despite the efforts taken by the authorities, and with no alternatives, the current hosting conditions make it impossible to practice social distancing and implement sanitation measures that would protect residents from COVID-19.

The recently confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the CETI, added to the described conditions and the lockdown of the center, have triggered fear of infection and tensions amongst the residents, which have been the origin of the protests in the center since Tuesday.

Well aware of the complexity of the issue, IOM and UNHCR urge the relevant authorities to take concrete and coordinated action to improve reception conditions in Melilla, in order to guarantee a reception in accordance with the relevant and specific legal instruments.

In light of this situation, both agencies suggest starting a swift assessment procedure, as well as promptly implementing potential measures that could be applied, such as the transfer of asylum seekers to the mainland, the voluntary return and reintegration programme and, when relevant, family reunification.

IOM and UNHCR remain ready to support the authorities by offering our experience and technical expertise to help find urgent and dignified solutions to the challenges that Melilla faces today in the fields of international protection and migration, especially taking into account the latest challenges posed by COVID-19.