Migrants in Barcelona detention center start hunger strike
Group of 60 recent arrivals begin protest over living conditions in state-run facility with demand to be freed says Let’s Close the CIE NGO
Around 60 Guinean detainees in Barcelona’s Migrant Detention Center (CIE in Catalan) started a hunger strike on Monday evening, say Spanish police, in protest against what they describe as poor conditions. The protesters, which may include minors, demand to be released by the state authorities, which run the center, and say they are determined not to give up their protest until they are “granted freedom,” said the Let’s Close the CIE NGO (Tanquem els CIE, in Catalan) in a news conference on Tuesday.
One of the organization’s lawyers, Andrés García Berrio, claimed that since the management of the center has changed, the living conditions have become poorer with shortfalls in health care and a “systematic presence” of riot police officers in the center. He also announced that the Spanish government may be organizing a flight to send the migrants back to their home country in Africa, which he believes violates “individual rights”.
"The migrants have risked their lives, they have had a very bad time and they have gone through a very traumatic situation"
Andrés García Berrio · NGO Let's Close the CIE lawyer
The group of Guineans arrived in the southern Spanish town of Motril, in the Andalusia region, around 40 days ago, having sailed from the North African coast in a small boat, according to García Berrio. “They demand to be treated with dignity, they have risked their lives, they have had a very bad time and they have gone through a very traumatic situation,” he added. The lawyer also explained that one of the boats was burned and threatened the lives of some of the migrants, while others died on their way to Spain.
The Migrant Detention Center in Barcelona’s Zona Franca neighbourhood has been in the eye of the storm for the past few years over accusations that the treatment of its detainees does not respect human rights, as Let’s Close the CIE has repeatedly reported. The Catalan capital’s city council has on many occasions asked the Spanish Ministry of Home Affairs to close the center down. Madrid did some improvement work in 2016, but the protests by Barcelona officials and NGOs went on. One migrant died in the center in 2012 and his body is yet to be found, while two people developed tuberculosis in 2017, with another 125 testing positive.
The Spanish home affairs ministry has eight detention centers for migrants spread across Spain, which are mainly used for newly-arrived undocumented migrants, who cannot be sent back home as their origin is unknown. Although not a prison, detainees are locked up in the centers without being able to leave for up to 60 days. If there is no judicial decision on the migrants after this deadline, Spanish law dictates that they must be released.