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Why are there no hotspots in Spain?

The hotspot approach was established by the European Commission as part of the direct action to support EU Member States situated at the external EU border and described in the European Agenda on Migration in May 2015. Hotspots are aimed at providing operational support for registration, identification, fingerprinting and examination of asylum seekers, as well as return procedures. The European Asylum Support Office (EASO) helps to process asylum applications, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) helps in organising the return of irregular migrants, while Europol and Eurojust further support Member States’ fight against human trafficking and smuggling of migrants. Hotspots are currently located in Italy and Greece but not in Spain even though the country saw an important increase in its migration flows.

At the time of the installation of hotspots, the problem from the EU perspective were the arrivals through Greece, Italy and the Balkans and not through Spain as the Western Mediterranean route was practically closed and the “hot returns” which are immediate expulsions without procedure by Spain in Ceuta and Melilla were effective (in spite of their illegality) in stopping people from entering. Morocco is a reliable partner in the area of border control to fight against irregular migration flows toward Europe as it works closely with Spain in order to secure the border between both countries. Morocco is also considered by the EU as the “good student” in the region, which is why it has been granted an “advanced status” in 2008. The repression policy is also well established from the Spanish closed centers.

Hotspots were a way to punish Italy and Greece for having stopped taking fingerprints in the previous year, showing that the problem might not have been immigration, but the EU’s migration management model designed to create crises in the countries on the frontline. Italy and Greece were helped to perfect the system which placed them in a situation of structural disadvantage in the first place. The Visegrad countries stopped the same thing from happening in their territories by enacting strict anti-immigration policies. In addition, Spain is not in the same economic situation vis-à-vis Europe than Italy and Greece.

The last point seems to lay in the fact that Spain and Morocco's cooperation on migration is seen as a model for Europe. Since several decades, migration is tackled as a shared responsibility by both countries. They argue that security alone is not the response to the intricacy of migration and the need to focus on their long existing trade ties and development cooperation. For example, Spain allows a certain amount of legal circular migration, giving some Moroccans the chance to work legally in Spain, although under strict conditions. Morocco, in exchange, accepts the return of adult Moroccan migrants who enter Spain irregularly. This is in adequation with an existing readmission agreement between Spain and Morocco.

We can argue that as long as the Spanish-Moroccan cooperation works efficiently, the EU will have no reason to establish a hotspot in Spain.

Author: Dr. Fanny Tittel-Mosser

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