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Amnesty International slams Spain’s ‘double standards’ on immigration

Human rights NGO Amnesty International has criticised Spain’s “double standards” vis-a-vis refugees, highlighting the contrast between its open arms policy to Ukrainian refugees and the “brutality” with which it treats African migrants in Ceuta and Melilla.

Amnesty International slams Spain's 'double standards' on immigration
Spanish soldiers stand guard as migrants wait on rocks off the shore of the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, in May 2021. Amnesty International’s 2021/2022 report has criticised the Spanish government's treatment of African migrations compared to its open arms policy for Ukrainian or Afghans. (Photo by Antonio Sempere / AFP)

Amnesty International (AI) has criticised Spain for using “double standards” when it comes to the situation of refugees. 

The Spanish branch of the human rights group, which made the comments coinciding with the release of AI’s global 2021/2022 report, argues that on the one hand the Spanish government is making efforts to provide a quick response to those escaping conflict in Ukraine or Afghanistan but by contrast uses excessive violence or persecution against African migrants crossing into Spain. 

“We can’t one day welcome with open arms those who escape war, and the next day beat and use extreme brutality against those who jump the fence in Melilla,” said the director of Amnesty International Spain Esteban Beltrán.

“It’s incoherent to demand a coordinated and open response for refugees in the European Union, and then carry out quick returns, even of minors, and justify everything based immigration control. 

READ ALSO: Why are Ceuta and Melilla Spanish?

“Spanish authorities must decide whether they want to comply with international law at their borders, or if they’re only going to do so when it is of interest to them,” Beltrán concluded.

Amnesty International’s 2021/2022 report explains in its section on Spain how after the Taliban took power in Afghanistan in 2021, the Spanish government evacuated 2,026 people and for the first time allowed people of Afghan nationality to apply for asylum in the Embassy of Spain in Pakistan.

As a further example of Spain’s double standards, the report points out the “overcrowding and precariousness” in migrant centres in the Canary Islands, referring to the poor conditions as “avoidable” and down to “poor management”.

Asylum-seekers in Spain have allegedly not been given access to adequate information about their rights, and Spanish authorities have not guaranteed their timely registration or the processing of their applications.

The human rights group with its headquarters in London also accuses Spain of “illegally and collectively” returning migrants to Morocco, including unaccompanied migrants.

READ ALSO: What happens to the thousands of undocumented migrants after they arrive in Spain?

In 2021, a total of 22,200 people arrived by sea to the Atlantic archipelago and at least 955 of them, including approximately 80 minors, drowned before they could reach Spanish shores.

The report, which analyses the human rights situation in 154 countries, also speaks negatively of the impunity displayed at Spanish nursing homes during the Covid-19 pandemic, when hundreds of infected elderly people were not properly cared for or were left to die alone.

Amnesty International also stresses there’s been “another pandemic” in Spain in the sense of the lack of adequate access to healthcare for people with chronic diseases, the elderly, and people with mental health problems whilst Covid-19 has dominated health personnel’s workload.

Freedom of expression and the right to protest also continues to be threatened in the Spanish state according to the annual report, citing examples such as the absence of reform of the so-called gag law and the application of Spain’s Criminal Code in cases such as the conviction and imprisonment of rapper Pablo Hasel.

The “excessive” use of force by Spanish law enforcement officers in order to break up demonstrations, such as the inappropriate use of foam balls, continues to be denounced by Amnesty International.

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IMMIGRATION

EXPLAINED: What are the main obstacles to finding a job when moving to an EU country?

Moving to another country is never easy, as it requires going through cultural changes and administrative formalities. It can be even more complicated when looking for a job.

EXPLAINED: What are the main obstacles to finding a job when moving to an EU country?

According to new data released by the EU statistical office, Eurostat, the knowledge of the national language and the recognition of professional qualifications are the two most common obstacles experienced by foreign-born people in finding a ‘suitable’ job in countries of the European Union.

Overall, about a quarter of people born outside the EU who had experience in working or looking for work in the bloc reported some difficulties getting a ‘suitable’ job for level of education (without considering the field of expertise or previous experience).

The Eurostat analysis shows that the situation is better for EU citizens moving within the bloc. But there are major differences depending on countries and gender.

Life can be more difficult for women

In 2021, 13.2 percent of men and 20.3 percent of women born in another European Union country reported obstacles in getting a suitable job in the EU place of residence.

These proportions however increase to 20.9 percent for men and 27.3 percent for women born in a non-EU country with a high level of development (based on the United Nations’ Human Development Index) and 31.1 percent for men and 35.7 percent for women from non-EU countries with a low or medium level of development.

Finland (42.9 percent), Sweden (41.7 percent), Luxembourg (34.6 percent) and France (32.1 percent) are the countries with the highest shares of people born outside the EU reporting problems. Norway, which is not part of the bloc, has an even higher percentage, 45.2, and Switzerland 34.3 percent.

In contrast, Cyprus (11.2 percent), Malta (10.9 percent), Slovenia (10.2 percent), Latvia (10 percent) and Lithuania (6.7 percent) have the lowest proportion of people born outside the EU reporting difficulties.

Lack of language skills

The lack of skills in the national language is most commonly cited as a hurdle, and it is even more problematic for women.

This issue was reported by 4.2 percent of men born in another EU country, 5.3 percent of those born in a developed country outside the EU and 9.7 percent of those from a non-EU country with a middle or low level of development. The corresponding shares for women, however, were 5.6, 6.7 and 10.5 percent respectively.

The countries where language skills were more likely to be reported by non-EU citizens as an obstacle in getting a relevant job were Finland (22.8 percent), Luxembourg (14.7 percent) and Sweden (13.1 percent).

As regards other countries covered by The Local, the percentage of non-EU citizens citing the language as a problem was 12.4 percent in Austria, 10.2 percent in Denmark, 7.8 percent in France, 5.1 percent in Italy, 2.7 percent in Spain, 11.1 percent on Norway and 10.1 percent in Switzerland. Data is not available for Germany.

Portugal (77.4 percent), Croatia (68.8 percent), Hungary (58.8 percent) and Spain (58.4 percent) have the highest share of people from outside the EU already speaking the language as a mother tongue before arriving, while more than 70 percent of non-EU citizens residing in Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg and Norway said they had participated in language courses after arrival.

Lisbon Portugal

Portugal has the highest share of people from outside the EU already speaking the language as a mother tongue before arriving. (Photo by Aayush Gupta on Unsplash)

Recognition of qualifications

Another hurdle on the way to a relevant job in EU countries is the lack of recognition of a formal qualification obtained abroad. This issue was reported by 2 percent of men and 3.8 percent of women born in another EU country. It was also mentioned by 3.3 percent of men and 5.9 percent of women born in a developed country outside the EU, and 4.8 percent of men and 4.6 percent of women born in a less developed non-EU country.

Eurostat says this reflects an “unofficial distrust” among employers of qualification obtained abroad and the “low official validation of foreign education”.

The lack of availability of a suitable job was another factor mentioned in the survey. In Croatia, Portugal and Hungary, this was the main obstacle to getting an adequate position.

This issue concerned 3.3 percent of men and 4.5 percent of women born in another EU country, 4.2 percent of men and 5 percent of women born in a developed non-EU country It also worried 3.9 percent of men and 5.1 percent of women born in a less developed non-EU country.

Restricted right to work due to citizenship or residence permits, as well as plain discrimination on the grounds of origin were also cited as problems.

Discrimination was mostly reported by people born in a less developed non-EU country (3.1 percent for men and 3.3 percent for women) compared to people born in highly developed non-EU countries (1.9 percent for men and 2.2 percent for women).

Citizenship and residence permits issues are unusual for people from within the EU. For people from outside the EU, this is the only area where women seem to have fewer problems than men: 1.6 percent of women from developed non-EU countries reported this issue, against 2.1 percent of men, with the share increasing to 2.8 and 3.3 percent respectively for women and men from less developed non-EU states.

The article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK.

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