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Activists condemn 'cruel and degrading' 7-officer restraint of detained migrant

Irídia human rights group appeals judge's decision to dismiss case involving person in midst of mental health crisis

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08 June 2021 02:19 PM

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ACN|Barcelona

Not long after Barcelona's migrant detention center (known as a 'CIE' in both Spanish and Catalan) reopened last October following a 6-month pandemic-related closure, seven officers restrained a detainee in what human rights organization Irídia has described as a "cruel and degrading" manner.

The migrant, who was in quarantine after being in close contact with someone with Covid-19, was experiencing a mental health crisis.

"10 days of isolation in these conditions. Anguish and self-harm," a Tweet from the activist group reads.

"Instead of taking him to a hospital, they handcuffed him, put a helmet on him, and zip-tied his legs for three hours."

Speaking to the press outside the migrant detention center in the Catalan capital's Zona Franca area on Tuesday, Andrés García Berrio, a lawyer for the association, explained that Irídia has appealed a Barcelona judge's decision to dismiss the case they believe to be an example of "institutional racism."

The man, who has since been deported, filed a complaint in November, but the court decided not to move forward with it in April as it deemed there to be insufficient evidence to determine whether officers had caused his injuries or if they were solely caused by the migrant himself. 

According to the judge, the detainee had had episodes in which he was "aggressive" towards the CIE's workers, and "there is no proof a crime was committed."

Irídia is calling for this case to be reopened on the basis that what could constitute "torture" or "degrading treatment" has not been adequately investigated, especially as the person in question was restrained for over 30 minutes, and has organized a protest in front of the migrant detention center on Saturday. 

No visitors allowed

Irídia's complaints come a day after the Migra Studium foundation, which is part of Spain’s Jesuit Migrant Service (SJM) network, criticized Barcelona's migrant detention center for being the only one that does not allow visits at all since the pandemic hit.

The NGO, which under normal circumstances is one of the few that is authorized to visit the people being held there, believes Covid-19 is being used as an excuse to "prevent other eyes from looking and other ears from hearing what is happening."

According to the latest SJM report, the Zona Franca site had detained 445 people in 2020, representing 20.01% of the total in Spain. Of the 84 people who were isolated in preventive rooms in all of Spain, 72 were in the CIE of Zona Franca, mostly for health reasons. 

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  • Andrés García Berrio, lawyer for human rights group Irídia, denounces the treatment of migrants at Barcelona's CIE (by Eli Don)

  • Andrés García Berrio, lawyer for human rights group Irídia, denounces the treatment of migrants at Barcelona's CIE (by Eli Don)

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