Pandemic restricts fundamental rights in the Immigration Detention Centres

Yesterday afternoon a round table discussion was organised by the Jesuit Migrant Service on the report “COVID-19 and immigration detention: Lessons (not) learned” by the Jesuit Refugee Service.

The round table was attended by Iván Lendrino Tejerina (SJM CIE [Immigration Detention Centres] programme coordinator), Josep Buades Fuster SJ (SJM Southern Border programme coordinator and director of the Claver-SJM Association), Arcadio Diaz Tejera (Magistrate and Stay Control Judge of the CIE of Las Palmas), Elena Arce Jiménez (Head Technician of the Migration and Equal Treatment Area in the Ombudsman’s Office) and Paloma Favieres Ruiz (Coordinator of the legal services of CEAR).

As Arcadio Díaz Tejera pointed out, “The pandemic has generated a restrictive drift in terms of fundamental rights”. In a year in which social and health issues have been and continue to be of particular concern and strategic importance, the structural deficiencies in this area of CIEs have called into question their need to exist. “It is necessary to prevent people from entering the CIE: the guarantees in the centre are minimal” assured Paloma Favieres, to which Elena Arce added: “with the confinement and the State of Alarm, the function of the CIEs began to make no sense”.

Among the issues that these speakers brought to the table were: the deficient role of legal and social care within the CIEs and, especially, a worsening of social and health conditions. Díaz Tejera gave an example of the former with this testimony: “On 25 September, 42 young people entered the CIE (29 Mali, 9 from Senegal, 2 from Gambia and 1 from Mauritania). When I asked all of them where they came from and if they knew about international protection, they all said no. Migrants should know their rights to international protection. Migrants should know their rights to protection, not only by asking, but also by being offered it. The children themselves do not see themselves as subjects of rights, they only ask for something to eat”.

In this area, Paloma Favieres insisted that “improving legal aid and translation in legal assistance are two fundamental aspects, in addition to the desire, the love of the profession and believing in what you do.

Socio-health aspects

At yesterday’s event, it became clear that the social and health care currently provided in CIEs is very deficient. For Elena Arce: “The news of this year of pandemic regarding the CIEs is far from being that for months there have been no people detained, the news is Samba Martine. A civil society that 11 years later has managed to ensure that the mother and daughter of this person who died in the detention centre in Madrid are compensated and that there is a resolution to assume patrimonial responsibility on the part of the administration. In the midst of a pandemic, the time is even more propitious to reflect on this. It is important to see and analyse this resolution to see what kind of health care is provided in the CIEs”.

The COVID-19 has shown that the only alternative for people coming from the emptied CIEs has been the Humanitarian Aid programmes,” said Paloma Favieres, “differentiating between emergency places and stable places, and not being able to convert emergency places into structural ones”. 

Thus, it became evident that during the months of emptying “nobody missed the CIEs”, according to Iván Lendrino, coordinator of the SJM CIE Programme, with the Hospitality of civil society being the most proportionate and appropriate reaction to forced migration.

See the report at this link.