Use of prison to house migrants sparks controversy

Migrants arriving by boat from North Africa have overflowed processing centres in Spain. Photo: Caritas via Europa Press
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• Vatican joins NGOS, political parties critical of use of new prison near Malaga
• Gov’t says recent wave of ‘boat people’ makes temporary use of jail necessary

Widespread criticism of the Spanish government over its unprecedented use of a vacant prison facility to temporarily house more than 500 undocumented immigrants has prompted the Interior Ministry to invite members of Congress and the Senate to visit and inspect conditions at the Archidona prison near Malaga on Friday.

Opposition political parties and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working with immigrants and refugees have been joined by Spain’s national Defensor del Pueblo ombudsman and the Vatican in criticizing the use of the jail facility to house 507 mainly Algerian immigrants who arrived by boat earlier this month to Cartagena. The use of the three-year-old unused correctional facility, say the critics, violates international and European accords on human rights and the treatment of migrants and sets a dangerous precedent in Spain that equates undocumented migrant status with criminality.

The government has claimed that its move of the undocumented “boat people” arrivees to the Archidona prison is necessary because the Interior Ministry’s temporary immigrant internment centres, known as CIEs (Centros de Internamiento para Extranjeros), which have been criticized for overcrowding and inhumane conditions by international human rights groups and Spanish NGOs, have been filled to capacity as a result of the record number of immigrants and refugees arriving by boat from North Africa in recent weeks.

The government’s decision has been roundly denounced by the local Socialist party in Malaga, as well as Podemos, and even the ruling party’s usual ally in Congress, Ciudadanos, has called for an explanation. A complaint filed by the Spanish Catholic church agency Caritas with the government’s rights ombudsman,  supported by Vatican representative Fabbio Baggi, head of the church’s international agency governing refugee and immigrant affairs, last week prompted a surprise inspection visit to the Archidona facility by a team from the ombudsman’s office.

► Read More in Spanish at El País, Europa Press and El Mundo …

► Read More in English at El País …

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