Spanish Migrant Rights Activist Helena Maleno Deported from Morocco

“The police were waiting for me at Tangier airport, I didn’t know what was going on“, Helena told the press. She further affirmed that the authorities have confiscated her papers and prevented her from drinking water or taking her medication describing the act as “humiliating”.

Helena Maleno, the founder of the Spanish NGO “Caminando Fronteras”, which aids migrants in difficulty and provides them with emergency services to locate them off the Spanish coast. During her press conference held in Madrid, Helena, the activist who is 50 years old, accused the Moroccan authorities for preventing her from returning to Morocco, where she has stayed for almost 20 years, on January 23. She further added that the Moroccan authorities have brought her up on a plane from Tangier heading to Barcelona; thus, separating her from her 14-year-old daughter for over a month.

The police were waiting for me at Tangier airport, I didn’t know what was going on“, Helena told the press. She further affirmed that the authorities have confiscated her papers and prevented her from drinking water or taking her medication describing the act as “humiliating”.

Helena pointed out that the Spanish Interior Ministry was aware of the expulsion; however, the Foreign Ministry wasn’t in touch with the issue.

Helena has been under investigation during the recent years in Spain and Morocco. In 2019, the Moroccan justice dismissed an investigation for human trafficking in connection with its fight against the shipwrecks of migrants in the Mediterranean.

Spain dismissed a first procedure in April 2017 after the Spanish police had handed over to the public prosecutor’s office a report stating her possible links with a “criminal organization”. However, despite these court rulings in her favor, she claims to be still the victim of harassment ever since. “Since April 2020, I and my family have been the victims of 37 attacks and I hold the Spanish and Moroccan governments accountable”, She further added.

She affirmed that someone had broken into her place in Morocco three times and that she had been followed. “The case of Helena is unfortunately the typical example of what can happen to anyone defending the rights (of migrants) at the borders of the European Union.”, Said Maria San Martin of Ireland-based NGO Front Line Defenders.

Spain is considered one of the important gateways for migrants to enter the EU from Africa. Europe has signed agreements with Morocco and other several countries to fight illegal immigration in the Mediterranean. Yet, the extremely dangerous migration route to the Canary Islands is one of the preferred routes.

Last year, 23,023 migrants arrived in the Canaries, a figure eight times higher than in 2019 and since the start of the year, the flow of arrivals is still on the increase. According to Helena Maleno’s NGO, 1,851 people died last year trying to reach the Canaries.

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