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A Spanish court in the country's North African enclave of Ceuta has ordered a halt to the repatriation to Morocco of nine children who arrived in May, concluding that the Spanish ministry of the interior has not met the requirements to return the young people legally. According to the digital newspaper, the court has taken this urgent measure in response to the interim appeal made by two groups, the Coordinadora de Barrios and Fundació Arrels, which sought to prevent the expulsion of a group of minors who were to be returned this Monday and Tuesday. According to the same newspaper, three of them were deported before the court ruling.

So far, the Spanish state has repatriated 45 of the 800 Moroccan children who had arrived in Ceuta. Thousands of migrants crossed from Morocco to Ceuta in May when the on-going diplomatic stand-off between Spain and Morocco hotted up.       

"There is no compliance at all"

According to the court ruling, the judge took the decision to stop the return of these nine minors because "there has been no compliance with the requirements" of international and Spanish legislation on the rights of children and necessary procedures in cases of expulsion from a country. "The administrative processing has not been done, complying with the aforementioned mandatory compliance procedures, nor is there an individual resolution on the matter for each of the minors involved, as is required in our legislation. An omission that has prevented all interested parties from knowing the basis on which the de facto decisions taken have been justified," states the ruling.

That is, in the opinion of the judge, the Spanish ministry is expelling the minors without the necessary formalities required by law, putting them in a situation of vulnerability.

Minors demand to see a judge

Also today, five minors from the group of fifteen who were to be repatriated this Monday have applied under habeas corpus to avoid being returned to Morocco and were due to appear this afternoons at another Ceuta court to make statements and await the judge's decision. Habeas corpus is a legal concept that allows a detainee to appear before the investigating judge who may order the immediate release of the person if their arrest is thought to have been arbitrary.

More deportations

Despite this, the expulsions have not been stopped completely. Just yesterday, a court of first instance in Ceuta rejected the precautionary suspension of the repatriation of all the minors, which was requested by public prosecutors in conjunction with the Coordinadora de Barrios group.

The public prosecutors have opened an investigation on how 800 minors are being repatriated to Morocco, an initiative that has pitted the two Spanish coalition government partners - the PSOE and Unidas Podemos - against each other, as well as prompting around fifty minors to flee from the building in which they were being lodged.

The Spanish prosecution service does not know the repatriation plan agreed between Spain and Morocco, according to judicial sources, who assert that the only official communication received on this initiative was very generic and at no time was the number of minors to be repatriated stated or when the process would begin. This Saturday a second group of fifteen minors was returned to Morocco, a practice that will continue in the coming days by order of the Spanish ministry led by Fernando Marlaska-Grande.

Main photo: A group of minors about to be repatriated to Morocco / Antonio Sempere