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Judges from Spain's Supreme Court have condemned the country for not meeting its international obligations towards refugees. In 2015, it had promised the European Council to relocate 19449 asylum seekers from Greece and Italy over the next two years.

According to the court, between 25th September 2015 and 26th September 2017, Spain only processed 12.85% of the relocations it was meant to, 15,000 too few, despite the fact that the European Council's decisions were "binding and compulsory". As such, it orders the Spanish state "to continue the processing as planned" and "in accordance with the agreements that the EU institutions may adopt from here on".

The judges have taken the decision in response to an appeal filed by the Suport a Stop Mare Mortum Association against the dismissal by silence of a request they had presented to the Spanish government in 2017. In the request, the association asked that the state be declared to have failed to fulfil its obligations and to have not complied with the European Council's decisions and asked the Spanish government to be ordered to "immediately" and "urgently" fulfil its commitments.

The state's lawyer in opposition

The ruling explains that the state's lawyer was opposed to the complaints, believing them baseless. Rajoy's executive claimed that the Spanish state was carrying out the necessary steps to claim and relocate the refugees assigned to them, but that the process was laborious because they had to check whether all the people in question met the precise conditions.

Spain also asked to take the matter to the Court of Justice of the EU to clarify whether it is up to the European Commission to check compliance with emergency decisions or whether the courts of each state can also do so. The judges dismissed this last request, saying that the Supreme Court can.

Only 12.85% of requests dealt with

The judges say that Spain only fulfilled 12.85% of the 19,449 relocations they were meant to do: "they should have made offers to and relocated 13,086 asylum seekers from Greece and 6,363 from Italy". They also note that the country turned down the possibility of reducing their quota by 30%.

All in all, they conclude that Spain "has failed to fulfil its obligations to offer and realise the relocations they were obliged to" and "more than half a year after the deadline, the report from the Office of Asylum and Refugees admits that the [rate of] fulfilment of its final obligations is under 13%".

By 4th March 2018, Spain had only offered 2,500 places (1,875 from Greece, 625 from Italy). The judges conclude that the administrative difficulties that the Spanish government claims "don't free it from its obligations" and "don't justify its omissive conduct".