In late 2015, Spain, along with other European countries, agreed to accept more asylum seekers in order to reduce the strain on Greece and Italy. It made a commitment to accept at least 16,000 asylum seekers within the next two years. Since that time, the crisis has increased in scale and urgency as a result of rising numbers of migrants.
On 9 July 2018, Spain’s Supreme Court ruled that Spain had failed to meet its commitment within the allowed time, citing a report by the Office for Asylum and Refugees which “recognises that Spain’s current track record with respect to its final obligations is below 13%.”
Judges commented on the rescue of The Aquarius which happened in June, whereby in response to Italy’s refusal to allow a rescue ship carrying 630 migrants to dock as a result of its crackdown on illegal immigration, Spain received it instead.
On the occasion of the rescue, Pedro Sanchez, the Spanish Prime Minister, said: “It is our duty to help avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and offer a safe port to these people, to comply with our human rights obligations.”
Despite instances such as these, the Supreme Court found that Spain must do more to resettle refugees, although it stopped short of fining the Government, ordering it instead to “continue the procedure”.
This should be a welcome ruling in aid of the increasing number of refugees stranded in the Mediterranean and arriving in Europe. In the midst of the continuing crisis, the welfare and safety of asylum seekers both in transit and in the course of resettlement must be utmost among the priorities of governments in receiving countries and other Member States of the EU.