Outrage in the Spanish Church Over the Imprisonment in Málaga of Nearly 500 Refugees

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“Identifying immigrants and refugees with criminals is enormously injust”. This Monday noon that of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference (CEE) became the latest voice to join in the chorus of outrage in the Spanish Church after the national government decided to imprison some 500 refugees, newly-arrived by boat, in Archidona prison, in Málaga, due to an alleged lack of space in the country’s “refugee internment centers” (Centros de Internamiento de Extranjeros, CIEs).

Speaking in a press conference after the assembly of the Spanish bishops held last week in Madrid, the spokesman of the CEE, José María Gil Tamayo, affirmed he could not do more than “fully support” the complaint lodged before the Ombudsman last week by Caritas that the decision to house the refugees in Archidona violates Spain’s Foreigners’ Act, which stipulates that “refugee internment centres” must not be of a correctional nature.

Tamayo went even further, in fact, in his criticism of the Spanish government, reminding the same that it has a duty to remember such “principles of a Christian-inspired humanism” as the rights of the human being and the protection of the most vulnerable.

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A “judicial aberration”

Caritas, in its complaint lodged last week before the Ombudsman, lambasted the government for its decision to imprison the refugees in Archidona when it could have taken “other decisions more respectful of the law… and of the human rights of the imprisoned people“.

The local branch of the social services organization of the Catholic Church also lamented the “media impact” the scandal has already had, the result of which has been the shaping of a “common mindset” in which foreigners are “criminalized”, even though they haven’t committed any crimes.

“It’s no good investing human and economic resources in the prevention of hate crimes and antidiscrimination policies”, decried Caritas, “when the flouting of the law [in the welcome to be given to refugees] is accompanied by public discourse that foments discrimination“. Words of great fervor and impeccable logic that were seconded by a group of activist organisations, including the Christian Base Communities of Granada, that in a press release charged that the jailing of refugees in Archidona and other similar internment centers – “opaque arrangements that imprison people who haven’t committed any crimes” –  constitutes a “judicial aberration”.

Sentiments those of Caritas and the diverse activist organizations that were supported too this weekend by Fabio Baggio, the Subsecretary of Migrants and Refugees in the Vatican Dicastery for Human Development, in an interview with the Spanish news agency Europa Press.

“The Catholic Church has always been very clear in terms of [the] administrative detention [of refugees]”, said Baggio, “saying ‘no’ to detention camps of any kind”.

“We support the campaign the Spanish Catholic Church is carrying forward such that these immigrants and refugees may be treated as human beings”, Baggio affirmed.

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